Social Media And Impressionable Minds - Eastern Mirror
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Social Media and Impressionable Minds

By The Editorial Team Updated: Oct 29, 2023 11:48 pm

The last few weeks have witnessed polarised debates on the impact of social media on teenagers and young adults. This debate will now play out in the legal arena as lawsuits have been filed in numerous states in the United States of America accusing Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, of harming the mental and physical health of teenagers and young adults. The lawsuits cite the platform’s addictive and rewarding qualities for keeping youth online with features that diminish their sense of self-worth and well-being. The current action is the biggest to date. The outcome of these cases could have global ramifications. There are renewed calls for new online protective measures such as age- appropriate health and safety standards for apps. Similar to any major debate one can find pertinent points made by the two opposing perspectives. Today social media has become an inextricable part of young people’s lives and the centrality of social media in their lives often negatively impacts their mental and physical health. Furthermore big tech firms like Meta and Google have been accused of malpractices like false advertisement. The fact that a handful of big tech firms disproportionately impacts the lives of younger generations is, of course, concerning, as these firms can control or influence the behaviour of impressionable youngsters. India which has one of the largest populations of young adults has to confront these issues sooner rather than later. 

Despite these concerns one has to be skeptical of these renewed calls for regulation as most of these concerns tend to ignore other social factors and overemphasise the effect of social media on mental health. It needs to be recognised that mental health of young adults is affected by a multitude of factors other than social media. Two such factors which are rarely scrutinised, especially in the Indian context, are the education system and parenting styles. Despite the efforts made by the current government the redundancy of the Indian school system remains blatantly visible. While one may blame infrastructural gaps for this redundancy, it is simultaneously important to recognise the fact that many teaching staff remain oblivious to the importance of mental health in young adults and refuse to adapt to more scientific and flexible teaching methods.  Secondly, though parenting styles vary greatly from family to family, many in rural India still adopt strict parenting styles and make decisions for their children without regard for the child’s personal preferences. A more collaborative and supportive mindset is the necessary to ensure that the mental health of children are not negatively impacted.

In a conservative society like ours, the acceptance of new tools by older generations is always lukewarm and while the impact of social media on the younger generation remains undeniable one has to investigate the root causes of issues that affect our youngsters. Demands for regulation are often reactionary and highlight the lack of understanding of the social media phenomenon. Educational workshops on how social media works and traps to avoid can be taught in schools and institutes. There is immense power and good that can come from social media, such as raising awareness about important social causes such as wars, famine, etc. There and ups and downs to social media and a host of factors that can impact mental health, so to singularly blame social media for the issues faced by the younger generation is ill-considered. It is not to say that the world of social media is perfect, but any discussion on the deteriorating mental health of the younger generation requires a rational and holistic discussion before drastic action is undertaken.

By The Editorial Team Updated: Oct 29, 2023 11:48:45 pm
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