Mental illnesses and their causes have been a changing conversation throughout the years. The way it is viewed specifically has changed, especially throughout the generations. This is due to how prior generations were raised to address these so-called “issues.” They weren’t allowed to have mental health problems without being seen as weak.
We are the generation built on the Internet, living in a fast-paced world filled with visuals and stories. Living in 2020, social media and the usage of the Internet in day-to-day life is higher than ever before. There are statistics of media usage year to year, some claiming that the average person spends six hours online each day. That can add up to 40% of our lives spent online. This is an unbelievable amount where someone is able to take in as much information as they want.
The Internet consumes so much of our time that it must affect us mentally. Although there are cat videos, baking tutorials and funny memes, the Internet is also haunted by content that has no mercy on anyone no matter what age or gender. There is nothing telling us what the limit is or what to not search. This is seen throughout the content that may support dysmorphia, eating disorders, depression and even promote racist or sexist ideas.
Social media is an open platform to say and do whatever you want. Prior generations didn’t have these screens in their faces constantly reminding them, like a negative parrot on their shoulder, of all the things wrong with themselves. One study from the University of Pittsburgh even stated that the people who spend more time on social media have more than twice the risk of having an eating disorder or body image concerns compared to their peers.
This presents the idea that, although social media can promote communication and awareness for communities, it can also be damaging and triggering to others. This need to feel wanted and accepted is such a consuming part of today’s world, whether one likes to admit it or not. With this large overflow of information, it’s hard to remain sane. This, paired with learning about today’s current events, is all the more reason today’s society may know too much too soon.
Prior generations had the luxury of remaining innocent longer. This in no way suggests that prior generations had it easier or didn’t have hardships like war or other personal conflicts. No parent wants their kid thinking about death. However, with the ability to be so quickly and easily informed — thank you Internet — kids today are more informed than ever and maybe it’s not so positive.
Michael Friedman, an associate professor at Columbia University, explained why this generation is so concerned. He claims that the world we live in deals with events that surround gun violence, sexual harassment, immigration issues, separation of families, and assault. All of this being publicized in the news and media makes it difficult for the youth to not get involved and as a result, be scared, creating this feeling of anxiety and even depression.
However, through the Internet, we have created a generation of people who are fragile and suffer from or exhibit a higher rate of mental health issues. While stigma still exists around mental health, it is more widely acceptable and encouraged to seek help. All we can do is hope for a future where social media and our news are more positive. To hope for a future where one’s mental being can only be improved not worsened.
Photo: P. Katyal
Written: Mia Internoscia