Home Tech Social media makes kids sad – and that’s bad news for democracy | Van Badham

Social media makes kids sad – and that’s bad news for democracy | Van Badham

by Elijah
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 Social media makes kids sad – and that's bad news for democracy | Van Badham

No, the kids are NOT okay. And since our future depends on it, we must do something.

This week, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy did democracy a great service by stating what must surely have been obvious to everyone for some time: social media is negatively affecting the mental health of adolescents.

Murthy’s comments indicate that fears expressed in the Atlantic’s blockbuster 2017 report that asked “Have smartphones destroyed a generation?» became reality. Western teenagers spend an average of almost five hours a day on social media and a third stay up until midnight on weeknights on their devices, Murthy said. So is it a coincidence that the recent World Happiness Report reveals that young people in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand now make up the unhappiest age group in their communities? Take a look at the phone of your nearest teenager and think about the relentless barrage of targeted consumer manipulation, platform bullying, crude sensationalism and naked propaganda they are exposed to and make up your own mind.

Adults can barely cope with this stuff; the very existence of the word “doomscrolling” proves the scale of the problem. You don’t have to write a book about QAnon to see how this madness can afflict and radicalize educated, mature, experienced people. Just take a look at your personal social media feeds and you will undoubtedly see “GLORY TO THE MARTYRS!” » anti-vax statements or conspiracies. Isn’t the lesson to be learned from the failure of Australia’s Indigenous voice in the parliamentary referendum the true scale of local online whackadoo?

Murthy’s concern is that allowing children to use social media is tantamount to giving them drugs that have not been proven safe. He also said the failure of governments to better regulate social media in recent years was “insane”. You can read all of his ideas here.

Or you can read similar concerns about this here, from me, in 2018, about the discovery that Instagram was causing girls to hate themselves and their bodies. Or from me a few weeks ago about kids being tricked by TikTok influencers into becoming obsessed with products that aren’t safe for them. Or when I begged for all smartphones to be broken here. Carla Wilshire’s short book, Time to Reboot, puts decades of research into a terrifying gender context. Nina Jankowicz’s book, How to Lose the Information War, on the scope of disinformation operations, should be in the library of every democracy enthusiast. And Talia Lavin’s Culture Warlords clearly shows how extreme online extremism is.

There are hundreds of books, thousands of articles, and a growing mountain of scientific consensus. Today, the US surgeon general is sounding the alarm and still – still – governments act powerless in the face of the power of corporations and overcapitalized platform giants. Ruthless regulation of platforms is imperative. Not through piecemeal “anti-doxx” legislation, but through in-depth reform. Firstly because our children are unhappy and obsessed with screens which make them that way. Combined with the social devastation imposed by the pandemic, a generation is terrified of an outside world that is a much safer and nicer place than the world they are told about online.

The more time people spend in the illusion, the more it becomes their reality. Young people have been deprived of learning social traditions and customs because they have been cut off from their peers and elders by lockdowns which have not only reduced the confidence of the stay-at-home generation to engage in society, but have also reduced society to screens – a place where reality is easily manipulated and manipulated. the unreal can convince too quickly.

All this has serious political implications.

Trump wizard Steve Bannon’s key insight as he built his far-right media machine was that “politics arises from culture.” Too many on the left analyze what is said by speakers at Trump rallies when what they should be considering is the accessible socialization and festivities offered to attendees. They don’t go to talk. They are going to the party.

While following Murthy’s exhortation to regulate the online world, in the real world we must also enable young people to have cultural experiences that are more engaging than what happens online.

Democracy must organize parties that young people can attend – otherwise the democracy party is over. For all of us.

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