January 22, 2020
I am not a big fan of smartphones or social media or large portions of the internet, though I recognize the value that all of these things can add to our lives. It’s when I watch a family of four eating dinner, all glued to their phones, or when I see an ad for smartphones extolling all the wonderful ways they allow the user to avoid human contact, that I worry that we are all going to hell.
But maybe I have been a bit hasty.
According to this article in the New York Times, there is a growing body of evidence that the effect of social media and smartphones on children and young adults may be more benign than we might fear.
While there has been an increase in depression and anxiety among young Americans that has coincided with the explosion of smartphones and social media engagement, less certain is the causal relationship. According to the article, some researchers observe that anxiety and suicide rates have not risen in large parts of Europe, where there has been a similar increase in smartphone usage by young people. Indeed, one researcher is quoted as asking “Why else might American kids be anxious other than telephones? How about climate change? How about income inequality? How about more student debt? There are so many big giant structural issues that have a huge impact on us but are invisible and that we aren’t looking at.”
I’m not going to increase my on-line activity anytime soon, but I may sleep a little better tonight. With my smartphone on the table next to my bed.