With the prevalent use of social media for people young and old, living a filter-free life seems like the ever-growing challenge for the next generation. Today’s youth are encouraged to presented a “filtered” version of themselves.
The most popular apps often come with filters to adjust how you look, or even change the colour tone to change a gloomy day into a sunny one.
When we scroll through a social feed it always seems like our friends are embarking on their next adventure, whether it’s travelling to the next exotic location, trying the trendy new restaurant in town, or wearing the latest fashion trends.
Not only are youth nowadays privy to the everyday details of their immediate social network, they can follow people they don’t know to further develop a feeling of inadequacy, with influencers portraying a dream lifestyle the majority of the youth generation feel they can only aspire to. A life goal for the upcoming generations may likely become "to be popular”.
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
So for those of us who are parents, or have nieces, nephews, and mentees, who may be impacted by this evolving, constantly connected culture, and the new slew of mental illnesses and associated with it (such as Social Media Anxiety Disorder), how can we contribute to building a “filter-free lifestyle” for them?
Studies have shown that social media is addictive, even more so than drugs, “likes” on Instagram provide an adrenaline drive(!)
More young people have anxiety or are depressed. (up 70% in the last 25 years)
More young people are suicidal. (Suicide is second leading cause of death after 'accidents').
More people are engaging in online bullying, sometimes of people they don’t even know(!) (43% of teens have reported being bullied online.)
It’s this type of behaviour that makes people afraid to fully express ourselves as who we are on social media, because there are online predators out there waiting to judge and weigh in with their opinion.
With some jobs existing solely online, and others dependent on social media for their income, it’s hard to unplug and walk away, and to fully disengage would mean you will live under a rock, not a smart choice if you want to continue being a tuned in member of society.
So a step in the right direction would be to start early to create the right set and ranking of values. We weren't ready for the enormous impact of social media, but we can teach the right set of values to minimize its emotional affect.
If young people can truly believe:
- Their self perception is of utmost importance, not what others are saying about them online.
- They have a support network of friends and family they can turn to and confide in
- They can be themselves within this support network free of judgement
If we can create an environment like the above, and that's only the beginning, then at least the youth of the next generation can feel a bit 'safer' to be themselves. They will feel less of an urge to filter reality to portray only the good things happening in their lives. They will feel they can share both the good and the bad, so they don't bottle up their negative emotions.
While we are no experts on the issue, and this is not a psychological review on the matter, it's a call for us to do what we can to create a filter-free life, which we believe will lead to an ultimately happier and mentally healthier life.
We hope this opinion piece inspires you to take action and do one thing to create a filter-free environment, whether it's to increase time spent on activities other than social media, or spending more time communicating with your children, it's a small effort by every one of us that can lead to change.