The toxic effects of social media


LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Social media was meant to connect people. But over time it has become toxic to many.

As tech companies come under increasing scrutiny, 13 investigations examine how our state is tackling the harmful effects of social media and a company’s goal to create a safer app.

“The reality is that we don’t interact meaningfully on these platforms. And what’s more, they really separate us more than bring us together,” says entrepreneur Henry Asulin.

Research dating back at least a decade shows a direct link between time spent on social media and mental health issues.

“We’re seeing a real increase in the amount of feelings of depression, anxiety, and even just feelings of isolation and loneliness,” says Las Vegas psychologist Dr. Sunshine Collins.

Add to that, eating disorders and even suicide.

So pervasive are the adverse effects, Collins says she’s introduced a new issue for her clients.

“When I’m working with people now, the thing I have to ask isn’t just, ‘How’s your social life?’ You know, ‘How often do you interact with your peers?’ But really, ‘How are do you interact with them? “, Collins said. “So, ‘Do you always see them in person or do you make plans and then come together with intent and purpose for a specific time and activity? Or do you just rely on that contact you get on the internet, just from likes or comments on a post you posted? “Those are very different qualities of social interactions.”

For many people, social media began as a warm and inviting opportunity to stay in touch with family members out of state, or an exciting opportunity to make surprise connections with childhood friends. .

But for many, the excitement faded as the social media experience turned into endless advertising, divisive content and everything else that went viral.

“We would expect to see social media really fulfill some of our needs as people to get that social connection,” Collins said. “But we often see the opposite – that there is an increase in loneliness for people who use social media for much of their social interaction.”

According to Kim Taylor, a licensed marriage and family therapist, before social media, it was often difficult for spouses to connect. Now it’s even worse.

“The phone is such a mindless distraction,” Taylor said. “And so a lot of couples will find themselves on their phones at night, scrolling, clicking, doing whatever. And they’re not spending time together, connecting, talking, planning, whether it’s a vacation or goals or whatever.”

Taylor says if the connection is lacking in our relationships, it could have serious consequences.

“It can lead to infidelity. It can lead to divorce,” Taylor said. “So it’s just a vehicle for that.”

So what are we doing to stop all this?

This month, several attorneys general — including Aaron Ford of Nevada — launched an investigation into TikTok to find out what harm the app can cause to young users and what TikTok knew about that harm.

By email, Ford told 13 inquiries

“Social media can be fun, but it can also present many risks. These risks can be particularly dangerous for young children who have not yet developed the tools to protect themselves online, or who do not even realize that the risks exist,” Ford wrote. “My office will continue to care for children in the age of social media, and we urge parents to have conversations with their children about sharing personal information online or associating with strangers.”

“This is a bipartisan issue, and I’m proud to work with the country’s attorneys general to resolve it,” he continued. “Research has shown that social media can harm the physical, mental and emotional well-being of children, and this is an issue we need to take seriously.”

A TikTok spokesperson issued the following statement:

We care deeply about creating an experience that helps protect and support the well-being of our community, and appreciate that state attorneys general are focused on keeping young users safe. We look forward to providing information on the many security and privacy protections we have for teens.

TikTok Spokesperson

Here are the links sent by TikTok that outline the specific measures the company is taking to protect young people, focusing on age-designed product experiences:

“The way we connect with technology today is very superficial,” says entrepreneur Asulin. He pursues a totally different kind of social media.

“And so right now with social media platforms, people are obsessed with these superficial things, like how many followers a person has, how many likes they get on a photo, how many times ‘she received the comment on a post,” Asulin said.

Asulin’s mission is to create a space where this does not happen.

“We’re going to market with FutureWave, which is really the first family media platform of its kind in the world,” he says.

It’s a move away from influencers, which Asulin calls the epitome of superficiality.

“There are a bunch of these insignificant people who have millions of followers, quite frankly, who are the main influencers in the lives of our loved ones,” Asulin said. “And the reality is that a lot of these people are put on a pedestal with no purpose, no accomplishment, no reason.”

He says it’s a shame so many kids look up to influencers as role models instead of their own family members.

“We’re looking to reset that narrative,” Asulin said. “We seek to allow our grandparents to be that influential element in our lives again as we continue to age.”

With the app’s scheduled launch this summer, FutureWave will feature an interactive family tree so users can learn more about their roots. Users can also save video messages which can be viewed by family members after one of them dies.

Even President Joe Biden said enough was enough during his State of the Union address: “We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experience they are conducting on our children at profit-making purposes”.

Until leaders can do this and hopeful startups like Asulin’s FutureWave can offer alternatives, family therapist Taylor says we need to prioritize the real people in our lives over to the virtual.

“Understand that these companies know exactly what they’re doing,” Taylor said. “They find ways to make people addicted. So if you think about it that way, someone else or another company is kind of controlling you – and that’s not what we want in a relationship. .”

13 investigators contacted Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and other platforms. A company spokesperson provided several links to additional resources for parents.

Information provided by Meta 13 Investigates shows that the company has introduced features on Instagram that include nudging teens away from topics they’ve been spending a lot of time on, the ability to mute accounts that teens need a pause and the ability to mask likes. The information shows that Instagram assigns teens private accounts by default.

It’s not yet clear how long the TikTok survey is expected to last, but we’ll get those results when they arrive. And we’ll let you know when FutureWave launches later this year.

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