The impact of social media on girls

Jon Haidt writes:

We are now 11 years into the largest epidemic of teen mental illness on record. As the CDC’s recent report showed, most girls are suffering, and nearly a third have seriously considered suicide. Why is this happening, and why did it start so suddenly around 2012?4 …

There is one giant, obvious, international, and gendered cause: Social media. Instagram was founded in 2010. The iPhone 4 was released then too—the first smartphone with a front-facing camera. In 2012 Facebook bought Instagram, and that’s the year that its user base exploded. By 2015, it was becoming normal for 12-year-old girls to spend hours each day taking selfies, editing selfies, and posting them for friends, enemies, and strangers to comment on, while also spending hours each day scrolling through photos of other girls and fabulously wealthy female celebrities with (seemingly) vastly superior bodies and lives. The hours girls spent each day on Instagram were taken from sleep, exercise, and time with friends and family. What did we think would happen to them?

The Collaborative Review doc that Jean Twenge, Zach Rausch and I have put together collects more than a hundred correlational, longitudinal, and experimental studies, on both sides of the question. Taken as a whole, it shows strong and clear evidence of causation, not just correlation. There are surely other contributing causes, but the Collaborative Review doc points strongly to this conclusion: Social Media is a Major Cause of the Mental Illness Epidemic in Teen Girls.

This is startling, but not surprising. A graphical representation shows:

Hat Tip: MBS

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