From infancy on, children are taught that drugs are bad.
They are given warning after warning and told to stay far above numerous negative influences.
They are advised that, for the sake of body and mind, drugs should be both avoided and condemned.
However, with modern day technology has risen the threat of a new and unexpected drug.
It is one that has been masked by the easy camaraderie brought on by access to many attention-starved people.
And that drug is… happiness.
SOCIAL MEDIA: A DOPAMINE FUELED OBSESSION
We love “likes” and “follows” and “shares.”
In fact, as a society, we’re obsessed with these popular social media interactions.
Because knowing that people “like,” “follow,” and “share,” the things we tell the world makes us feel seen.
It makes us feel heard.
And it makes us feel as though we are not alone.
That isn’t just hearsay, either.
Although it seems great at first glance, this can create a negative feedback loop where we post whatever we “need” to post (as often as we “need” to post it) in order to feel that rush of positive emotions.
Then, the desire for another “hit” increases the frequency and raises the shock value of the content we are willing to put on display.
Psychological affects aren’t the only ones to concern ourselves with.
People with a true addiction to social media can’t enjoy life at all without it.
They actually experience withdrawal symptoms when away from their smart phones for long enough.
This is especially damaging for teenagers, who are dealing with the struggles of puberty, peer acceptance, and — now— the potential for embarrassing online activities to follow them around forever.
FUTURE CONSEQUENCES OF POOR ONLINE CHOICES DURING TEEN YEARS
Everyone knows that kids (especially teenagers) make mistakes, but until very recently, those mistakes were guaranteed to be forgotten with the passage of time.
Now, smart phones are everywhere and viral faux pas are just a click away.
One 30 second video made for a quick laugh in the moment can haunt a person for years to come.
More than just the potential for embarrassment, these mistakes can lead to being fired from a job, being passed over in the final interview stage for someone with a “quieter” social media presence, or even being blacklisted from an entire industry.
Since schools don’t prioritize teaching acceptable online behavior, these consequences are looming ever closer to the youth of today, many of whom are already feeling the effects.
For example, there is an entire genre of TikTok videos where people tell the story of how they got fired from their job… over a TikTok video.
The unfortunate reality of potential future consequences combined with the phenomenon of social comparison is quite the unhealthy match.
TEEN MENTAL HEALTH AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Access to the world is a double edged sword.
Teenagers sometimes don’t realize that when they have access to everyone on the internet, everyone on the internet also has access to them.
Dealing with online bullies and trolls is not a skill taught at school (along with safety and good virtual manners).
This lack of internet know-how can lead to a flood of painful jibes and harsh insults that results in tanked self esteem.
This can lead to much worse than the odd bad day, as evidenced by the fact that the rates at which teens (especially girls) have been admitted to hospitals due to suicidal thoughts has nearly doubled between 2008 and 2015.
On top of that, overdose rates in young people have also increased in recent years.
It’s no wonder teenagers themselves even admit they spend too much time on social media.
But does it have to be that way?
HOW TO USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR HEALTHY DOPAMINE RELEASE
Rather than to be fueled by meaningless interactions (an arbitrary number of “likes,” for example) we could change the landscape of social media expectations.
Expecting teens to quit cold turkey is not the way to go, so what does it mean to “change the landscape of expectations” when it comes to social media?
Right now, online communication is the norm.
So, how can teenagers abide by that norm (and thus, reap the benefits of a perimeter-less community) without sacrificing their mental health?
The secret is finding a social network – like TapeReal – that attracts those who desire authenticity.
BRIDGING THE SOCIAL SKILLS GAP BETWEEN ONLINE AND IN PERSON
That’s because saying everything from behind a screen prevents one from noticing facial expressions, hearing someone’s tone of voice, and being aware of general body language.
Short of actual in person communication, this can't be entirely remedied.
However, the problem is made much worse by the current expectations put forth by the most popular social media outlets.
The best thing we can do to create a balance between teens' love of digital communication platforms and the need for developing social skills is to add a healthier outlet to their list.
This way, the desire for communication can be satisfied without all the unhealthy obsession.
When the purpose of a social network is to facilitate meaningful conversations and capture relevant social memories, (as is the case with TapeReal) most of the negative side effects of social media automatically become void.
There is no desire to "1-up" others, nobody is compelled to perform like circus animals for an arbitrary digital reward, and the atmosphere doesn't support baseless insults.
We attract those with sincere interests who genuinely want a breather from the high stakes of other apps, and we would be more than happy to welcome teens who are looking for no pressure... just good conversation.