The following editorial was originally published in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Sunday, October 6, 2019 as part of the "Raise Your Hand" column in the Insights section.
By: Jayla Doyle, Roosevelt High School, Class of 2021
As you’re scrolling through social media, you come across your friend’s post of her eating lobster with her boyfriend next to the Eiffel Tower. You pause and realize you’re sitting on the couch alone, eating a bowl of mac and cheese made for one. The smile on your face lowers into a frown, and a sudden feeling of depression descends upon you. As the rate of social media usage increases, so does the rate of depression. Generation Z, those born between 1997 and the early 2000’s, has shown to have a higher rate of depression than any other generation. According to the American Psychological Association, Generation Z reports the highest percentage of poor mental health at 27%, making it 12% higher than the next closest generation. While this evidence alone doesn’t prove that social media is to blame, the effect on one’s psyche is undisputable.
A survey conducted by the Washington Post showed that 43% of Generation Z individuals admitted that social media negatively affects their self-esteem. As social media use continues to climb throughout each generation, people feel lost without their daily, hourly or even incessant checking of their social media accounts. With each glance and scroll through a newsfeed, people are susceptible to the negative forces that could cause them to fall deeper into depression. People experience feelings of depression from looking at social media because of the false reality of lives projected by friends, family, and celebrities coupled with the extensive amount of time people engage in that content. From what I see daily, social media is the first thing individuals go on once they unlock their electronic device. By using social media, we indulge in viewing what others around us are choosing to show us. This element of selectivity, purposely choosing the best part of their lives that they want to be seen, is what drives people to orchestrate photos, events, or situations that are worth posting online. It’s natural for people to compare themselves to what they see, but it is unnatural for people to continually hold themselves against unreasonably high standards.
As humans, we continually want certain objects or experiences that we lack. We want those things more when we see others having the time of their lives. It’s harder to deal with thisdesire when you’re constantly exposed to more content showing what others have or are doing. The Child Mind Institute, a national mental health nonprofit, reports that people who are suffering from low self-esteem, like those in Generation Z, are more likely to interpret images of peers having fun as confirmation that their own lives are comparatively boring, meaningless, and most of all, depressing. Kids struggling with self-doubt and low self-esteem read into their friends’ images as a representation of what they feel they don’t have. It almost becomes cyclical. The more you read, the more depressed you become, and as you become more depressed, you don’t want to do anything but scroll your finger in hopes of finding someone that feels the way you do--depressed.
Social media can have so many great uses and connect us to people we would otherwise not be able to. Unfortunately, it has also caused an increase in depression over generations, taking the highest toll on Generation Z. Maybe if everyone started posting the good and the bad in their lives as well as have the ability to freely talk about depression without fear of being shamed, then we could start making Generation Z a happier generation.