Well, that’s certainly good news. I came across two interesting articles, both dealing with the fact that teens in today’s age are experimenting less with drugs and having less sex. However, thoughts of suicide and hopelessness have gone up. Now I’m no psychologist and this is a weighty topic to discuss, so please do bear with me. I think that as a species we’ve produced a society with very few rites of passage. I think we underestimate the positive outcomes of rites of passage and in saying that I’m veering more towards the ones we established when we all still lived in the jungle – where we spent the majority of our time as a species on the whole.
Rites of passage still exist today in the forms of significant birthdays, puberty, graduations, wedding ceremonies and even divorce. One of the biggest issues facing today’s modern society is that quite often, not enough importance gets placed on a rite of passage, thus it can wind up being nothing more than a passage as opposed to an initiation or a rite – something fully encapsulated and complete. Then, of course, there are socio-economic factors to take into account. In other words, if a person is bereft of certain rites – an education, graduation or landing a job – then other rites of passage are sought and this is often counterproductive. It could be the joining of a gang or the indulgence of drugs, or the need to procreate with everything that walks. However, because sex and drugs is lessening, but suicidal tendencies and hopelessness is on the increase, I think we need to put our focus elsewhere.
Blame Social Media!
Social media, like many forms of technology, is a double–sided sword. Its swipe is multi-layered and the results equate several outcomes. I do believe that despite the fact that Facebook has improved communication for everyone, it’s changed the behaviour of large segments of society. It’s practically thrusted itself on to us, thereby forcing us to adopt it in order to stay in touch and because of its insidious design, we come back to it over and over again. If you’re not disciplined enough, it will disrupt your productivity, be it in the form of work, your free time or the time spent with family and loved ones.
However, the ramifications of Facebook, and other social media related apps and sites like Instagram go beyond the aforementioned attributes. These are tools of an unhealthy obsession and a societal sickness that comes down to unappealing human qualities, mainly pride, vanity and ego. And when these surface traits are not nourished, fed or satisfied, we immediately assume we’re not good enough. If a post gets little to no likes, we assume people do not approve and the same goes for anything we say on these forums. These online forums have come to be the means by which we seek approval from our peers and, in essence, the world.
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Smartphones – The Digital Enablers
Smartphones – call them the minions or call them the enablers, because all these devices have done is strengthened the stranglehold that social media already has on us. With the aid of the smartphone, online digital entities like Facebook and Instagram have been allowed to completely pervade our lives. How many times have you not just found yourself scrolling aimlessly though your timeline, squandering your own time? The ease and the convenience of the smartphone has made it difficult for us to resist the lure of what it offers. You see it all the time – at the bus stop, on the train, in restaurants, in shopping lines, even while driving – people are looking at their phones.
We’re to Blame too
I’m throwing Facebook, social media and smartphones under the bus and while it is deserved, I cannot avoid the elephant in the room – us. We’re to blame as well and quite frankly due our lack of control, restraint and discipline. I can’t put my finger on it, I’m not a psychologist, social scientist or doctor, but what I will say is that as a species we’re as simple as we are complex, as in control as we are out of control, and as constructive as we are destructive. Our capacity for obsession knows little limits and we’re the only ones on his earth who actually display self-destructive traits, notions and tendencies. This is why we struggle to let go of things that give us pleasure and why we struggle to regulate our behaviour, especially when the gratification or potential thereof is swift. Overcoming our behavioural complexities is not impossible; it just requires vigilance and a genuine interest in self-improvement.
There’s no straight answer as to why teens are having less sex and doing less drugs. As I said at the start, I do think this is a step in the right direction. However, the increase in suicidal thoughts, depression and hopelessness, is in this writer’s opinion, the result of a reliance on social media, which in its own right functions like a drug on the brain. It’s the new drug, the digital drug; it’s a simple case of diverted attention, all of which requires acknowledgement, awareness and the tools to combat it. Hobbies, fitness, spirituality – these are the tools necessary to combat social diseases derived from an addiction, be it in the form of something physical or psychological.