Social media is bad for younger users | Inquirer Opinion
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Social media is bad for younger users

Using social media is a significant factor in depression and anxiety among adolescents, which is leading to a worsening mental health crisis in this age group.

On Monday, the United States Surgeon General sounded the alarm about the mental health dangers that social media use inflicts relentlessly on unsuspecting adolescents. The gravity of the situation compelled him to call for adding health warnings to social media platforms, similar to the warning labels on cigarette packs issued by the surgeon general.

“The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency—and social media has emerged as an important contributor,” said Vivek H. Murthy in an op-ed published by The New York Times. The father of two then asked: “Why is it that we have failed to respond to the harms of social media when they are no less urgent or widespread than those posed by unsafe cars, planes, or food? These harms are not a failure of willpower and parenting; they are the consequence of unleashing powerful technology without adequate safety measures, transparency, or accountability.”

He mentioned that warning labels, such as those in tobacco products, could increase awareness and change behavior.


The warning from America’s top doctor is a wake-up call for everyone. His prescription can be applied to a global audience of social media platforms with parent companies located in the US. These are the nine of the 10 most popular social media networks—Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, X, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, and Reddit. The 10th on the list, according to, is VK, a Russian networking site.

To imagine a world without social media and chat apps is wishful thinking because they have undoubtedly brought the world together.

Toxic atmosphere. But we’ve already lost many battles in terms of protecting ourselves from physical and psychological harms caused by excessive use of social media, and the toxic atmosphere created by the hateful, violent, and immoral content that these platforms have made available at our fingertips.

Regardless of the age range involved, group chats can be toxic, tearing apart friendships, families, and even church groups, instead of promoting understanding that improves empathy and meaningful coexistence.


Why has technology become a platform for divisions? If you’re not a wordsmith with plenty of time, the number of words you can write in a post or chat app message is limited. In this environment, context is often lacking because the system is designed for quick communication. Second, we always bring our assumptions into conversations, and our perception of people influences how we interpret their posts or messages. Communication platforms have the potential to cause communication breakdowns, with misunderstandings and quarrels not far behind.

Third, boundaries have become blurred. The internet has allowed others to invade our living rooms and bedrooms through our mobile phones. Fourth, social media has weakened social etiquette. Before the digital revolution, washing our dirty laundry in public was unthinkable. Now, this cultural taboo is passé. From politicians and actors to social media influencers and just about any netizen out there, the right to speak one’s mind hastily has gained currency over self-control, humility, and respect for others’ viewpoints.


Due to their use of mobile phones as their primary means of social interaction, adolescents today have poor social skills. They straddle between two parallel dimensions of the real and the virtual that are conflated, although they have separate rules of decorum and engagement. This inconsistency results in internal conflict, as their online avatar of an idealized self is separate (and perhaps different) from what they are in the real world. Discovering this inconsistency leads to frustration, and any hint of rejection from one’s peers can reinforce insecurities that could lead to bouts of anxiety, and eventually, depression.

What’s dangerous, as the surgeon general pointed out, is that adolescents, whose brains are still developing, are too young to comprehend these complex processes. Social media often emphasizes entertainment stories over general news, emphasizing the extremes and excesses of the influencers. Daily exposure to these types of content can be detrimental to a 12-year-old kid or a teenager who is still trying to understand the world and learn its rules, besides being in the early process of building an identity in an insecure world.

Embracing virtual reality, especially promoted by social media influencers, leads to a false sense of entitlement and embrace of a counterfeit world that frowns on sacrifice, endurance, and patience. One potential approach, in addition to reducing the use of social media among the youth, is to assist them in developing psychological coping mechanisms that are rooted in the realization that humans are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world.


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