Addiction-like Attraction to Social Media Feeds Teen Hopelessness

Social media platforms may contribute to hopelessness.

Social media platforms may contribute to hopelessness. In my interview with the program director of the Food Pantry Outreach, she notes that the breakdown of families and generational poverty have led to hopelessness among the teens she deals with every week. In her professional opinion, “generational poverty (pause) and mom or dad not being present, because they’re in jail or suffering from addictions (pause) so teens are left to themselves to figure stuff out.” She sees that correlation is causation regarding anxiety and depression, and screen addiction is resulting because everything else in society that is meant to provide stability and structure is shifting.

Social media platforms hold an addiction-like attraction over people.

Mayo Clinic cites a few warning signs of addiction that I readily apply to social media platform abuse. Two warning signs of addiction are directly relevant to our Edgerton youth. The first is described as “driving or doing other risky activities when they're under the influence of drug use.”[1] “Fully 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online 'almost constantly'…”[2] According to the Edgerton YRBS, 73 percent of young drivers here knowingly take risks such as texting and driving.[3] The second mark of addiction is defined as “cutting back on social or recreational activities because of the drug.”[4] Consistent withdrawal from social or recreational activities follows patterns of addiction. I believe that many teens have cut back on social activities although the core group I relate with has not.

As a marginalized group due to their status as Special Educational students and non-binary identification, my teens fit the description by Dennis Edwards, Seminary Dean and Vice President of Church Relations at North Park Theological Seminary when he writes, “the message to those on the margins was essentially fatalistic.”[5] Edwards is referring to marginalized Christians and especially those of color who endure racism and oppression by white Christians, but his words include all who endure marginalization by powerful groups in any social context. The teens I minister among are powerless and they know it. Constant despair deteriorates the soul and social media may be used as a drug to distract them from lifelong pain but it merely amplifies the suffering. There is more going on at the social level than many perceive.

[1] Mayo Clinic Staff, “Drug addiction (substance use disorder),” Oct. 26, 2017.

[2] Monica Anderson and Jingjing Jiang.

[3] McCoy, Katherine. “2019 Wisconsin Youth Risk Behavior Summary Report”, Madison: Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, 2020, 4.

[4] Mayo Clinic Staff

[5] Dennis R. Edwards, Might from the Margins, The Gospel’s Power to Turn the Tables on Injustice (Harrisonburg: Herald Press, 2020)61.

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