Instagram and Snapchat have been rated as the two worst social media apps for young people, according to a recent study by the Royal Society for Public Health. But is this really news, and is it at all consequential? The report shows significant impact on young minds relating to bullying, poor self-image and anxiety, yet while these apps certainly offer opportunity for bad behavior and negative thinking, the single greatest factor surrounding these problems has to be noted: simple adolescence.
Physical comparison, jockeying for social position, fear of being rejected by the group are not caused by social media. They've merely had a change of location, from classroom to IPhone, from AP to app.
These are perennial puberty problems, perennial people problems. How could they not be perennial social media problems? The location has changed but not the conditions. Adolescent development happens in the context of comparison of worth, competition, and social anxiety. There are certainly healthy and very unhealthy forms of these phenomena, and social media does contribute to some of their unhealthiest forms, but the solutions do not rest in hedging social media access or entirely ineffective anti-social media campaigns.
We are dealing with the same issue that has always existed: the teaching of young people how to manage their emotions and to live socially amongst their fellows. It's bootwork education, not bookworm education.
For all the distraction of social media, couldn't we put more effort into teaching our youth, and ourselves, how to better handle our anger, fear, jealousy and anxiety? Real impact comes from real solutions to the right problems.
Endnote: nowhere am I advocating ignoring the effects of poor self-image, bullying or anxiety. These are real problems, with need of real solutions of their own.