Smart phones are crippling us. I agree.
Depression and suicide rates are on the rise, especially teenaged girls. I agree.
Social media highlights our loneliness. I agree.
Compelling statistics in Jean Twenge’s article in The Atlantic, questioning whether smartphones have destroyed a generation. The detrimental link between the use of devices and our physical & mental health is clear.
But I do not agree that the culprits are our smartphones.
It is not about setting boundaries or limiting time on phone
It is not even about telling our children (and ourselves) to not go on to social media.
It is about addressing the inner fears of the teens that drives such behaviours. Instead of yelling at our kids for locking themselves up in their bedrooms, have we spent the time to talk to them about why they want to be on social media. Do we talk to them about their insecurities, their self-esteem issues, their growing pains? (In case you do not understand your depressed teen, maybe this free ebook I wrote will help).
In fact, do we ask ourselves those questions, for who are we to judge or help our children, when we will not even confront ourselves? Hooked to smartphones is not only an issue for the teenage generation.
Surely you have seen adults on their phones and social media all the time, even when during an argument with their better (or worse) half, even at the dinner table with their kids, even during a romantic dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant in the middle of Venice. Because they too have to keep up with their colleagues’ promotions, job opportunities, showing off the latest yoga class on a rooftop or the exuberant meditation retreat they went on, as if there is a competition to be more mindful than the neighbour.
No one seems to want to take ownership of our own decisions and behaviours, but rather relegate it to the devices that cannot speak in their own defense (yet). We need to address what is deep in our unconscious minds – those fears that bring ourselves down.
There is nothing wrong with the smartphones. The issue is how we use it and how we have not taught ourselves – or our children – to use the phone. The exposure to competition, jealousy, being left out of parties are all real. There is no way to avoid them. But what do we do once we have identified this loneliness? How many teens can even verbalize their emotions?
How many adults, for that matter, can say, “I feel abandoned / not good enough / resentful / insecure”, even just to themselves? Rather, most of us craft the image we think others would like of us, to be “professional,” “mature,” “grown up” and hide our real emotions.
This is why companies need to put mental health on the agenda for their executives’ sanity & well being.
Just because something is developed does not mean we have to use it. Where is our self-control? Where is our curiosity to know more about ourselves, to understand why we feel compelled to swipe on Snapchat till our fingers hurt? Stop blaming it on external devices. We have a choice to follow or not — and we can participate in advocating for non-addictive app designs. Phones and apps can help instead of trip us over: Tristan Harris at Time Well Spent says social media is designed to get us addicted, and I find it a worthy cause for more responsible technology development. Maybe instead of critiquing how big our friend’s bum looks on Instagram, we could pay attention to how grey or blue her photos are because it could well be a sign of depression, according to Corinne Purtill in her Quartz article.
Plus, that statistics for depression and suicides are on the rise is partly due to increase in awareness and hence more people are less embarrassed to report mental health challenges, and more doctors / school counselors / occupational therapists are trained to spot these issues etc. Do not take statistics by face values.
Depression is real. Suicides are real. It happens around us every minute. Across age, gender, occupations, nationalities, geographies, social statuses… There are different causes and triggers.
Let us get to the bottom of it.
Let us talk about it.
Let us be brave enough to address our own emotions, those deep down.
Yes, spend your time well.