Families, neighborhoods, and real-life bonds can help fight against social media’s “false perfection.”
With the possible exception of facial plastic surgery and skincare, the world of medicine is not about trying to be perfect, but about dealing with flaws and keeping illness and death at bay for as long as possible, not about following a higher standard.
We doctors know too much about the human body to worship it. Our therapists call this worshipping of oneself “narcissism,” and they try to help their patients accept themselves as they are.
In this way, social media and apps on the internet are often our enemies.
It’s weird to think that individuals on dating sites are obsessed with rich people with beautiful bodies and looks. Relationships that are based on faith and a good sense of fun are at risk.
On social media, many young women talk badly about marriage to avoid the pitfalls of having a child and a partner. Putting off marriage and starting a family to focus on a job is one thing, but making fun of the “institution” is another.
And the way social media makes people disagree goes all the way into politics and hate. In 2017, at a high school in California, an Instagram account was full of racist, sexist, and inappropriately mocking jokes. This caused a lot of tension in the town and led to multiple cases.
Sadly, this is far from the only time this has happened. It was and still is too easy to attack, pick on, and ignore people who can’t hear or see you. The COVID pandemic made the problem much worse because people were stuck in their caves with only their cellphones and social media became their only way to talk to other people.
It wasn’t good for them, and the rate of worry showed that. Teenage girls were especially at risk. According to CDC data, almost two-thirds of teens felt very lonely and unhappy in 2021, and one-third of them actually thought about killing themselves as the number of teens who went to the emergency room for mental health problems went up.
It would be too easy to just blindly ask for more government oversight and rules, but this would probably lead to more stubborn refusal and not solve the problem at all. I agree with Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who I have talked to several times and who says that beating loneliness and reconnecting with people is a good alternative to social media.
I also like what Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia is doing with his Right Help Right Now program. This program is trying to fight the growing feeling of isolation and the mental health problem that is getting worse because of the outbreak. In an interview I did with him last week for Fox News, he told me that social media’s presence in every part of so many Americans’ lives only makes them feel more alone.
Youngkin also said, “Children belong to their families, not to the government. So, it’s very important to make sure that parents are always given power and the right to make choices with their child. We need to save this age, which is in danger of dying out. And at the center of it all is the part parents play in the lives of their children.”
Families, communities, and in-person bonds where kids, teens, and young people learn to accept and love each other “warts and all” are the best ways to fight the fake perfection of the internet and social media, which is luring and hurting our most valuable prize.