Social media – a viewpoint

Julie Lynn, a former journalist, teacher and full-time mother, recently wrote in an article on the Conservative Woman website titled “Unfriend the cyber Pied Piper, Kids, and DO something with your lives”.


Although not written from a Christian perspective, the article voices many concerns over the impact of social media on the minds of children and young people.


The author uses as a backdrop the recent Children’s Society “The Good Childhood Report 2018” and the findings relating to the level of self-harming in adolescent girls and boys. References also made to NHS figures (made available as result of a question in the House of Lords), relating to the numbers of girls aged 18 and under admitted to hospital for self-harm. In 2017 this was 13,463 and in 1997 the figure was 7,327. (An almost doubling in two decades.)


The article then goes on to state “The NSPCC states that the reasons for the increase in self-harming include depression, bullying, pressure at school, emotional abuse, grieving and relationship problems with family or friends. It says that anxieties about looks is a big issue and that another factor is how the young feel about sexuality and gender stereotypes. Well, it’s been said before but it’s worth saying again: the digital age has its fingerprints all over our children’s increasingly unhappy lives and it is we who have allowed that grip to tighten.


Mass distraction by and addiction to social media (and that’s not just the young but also now, unfortunately, those who are raising the young) means that teenagers measure their self-worth according to their social media status: the likes, the shares, the retweets. Who wouldn’t get depressed by spending hours every day alone in a bedroom comparing your own imperfect life to everybody else’s `highlights reel’? And fretting about being excluded. And FOMO (fear of missing out). Of course, the malevolent little screen is constantly in their hands inviting them to scroll and tap. Until it’s suggesting they may just as well cut. Yes, there is the capacity for compassion and altruism on social media, but sadly it doesn’t punch above its weight quite as does trolldom or more subtle bullying in its impact on the lives of others.”


The author later comments in the article that “Social media addiction, as with any kind of addiction, sucks time out of life. It displaces. It pushes things out of life that would be best not pushed out. Like making memories of something other than sitting in your bedroom for years scrolling and tapping. Like physical activity. Last year I talked to a youth football coach in my town who said a number of junior squads no longer existed because there was not the interest there was a decade ago. All on their gadgets now, he said sadly. No need to talk here either about an epidemic of obesity and its consequences for the young.


Social media has made the young obsessed with body image. It peddles them the lie that if you could only look like this, with this hair, these clothes, these legs, this six-pack, then you too will be happy. It says ‘Follow me and you’ll learn how to live.’ Masses are now following this cyber Pied Piper into the mountain darkness that is their bedroom or the dismal communal silence you get when a family or a group all have their heads down into their phones. But it’s not a life. It’s disconnection from life. It’s isolation and alienation from the things that really matter: our relationship with other people on a face-to-face, voice-to-voice basis. Isn’t it meaningful connection to others that is at the heart of that sense of our ease with ourselves as human beings?”


The author finally concludes with the observation “It’s time now to help our young get back to touching things that matter, things that have substance, weight, a smell: a book, pencils, paper, paints, food, to name but a few. Get making, doing, re-doing, get noticing the world. Discover the creative potential of boredom once you set aside the screen, social media, with all its power to disinhibit and dehumanise. If we can help the young of today get away from the con-trick that takes up hours of their daily lives and leaves them despairing, then they might be able to get in touch with themselves, rather than a screen, hear their own voice rather than that of the mob. Then there might be a way out of the tragic despair in which many of today’s young now find themselves.”


Certainly, there are many thought-provoking comments in the article that resonate with concerns that parents (grandparents and, no doubt, others) would share. The full article can be found by clicking here.


At the forthcoming CViE National Event 2018, there is a session “Safety and security online” that will introduce a number of resources prepared by CViE aimed at helping parents manage technology and internet usage as well as assisting them in teaching their children how to be safe online.


Click here for the Children’s Society report and the NHS statistics.


[The Conservative Woman website was set up “as a counter-cultural offensive against the forces of Leftism, feminism and modernism – against the anti-family, authoritarian identity politics and ‘equality and diversity’ ideology sweeping through the country’s institutions”. Although we would not endorse all the articles posted on the website, there are some that we can concur with the sentiments expressed.]