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Beyond Social Media: The Complexity of Gen Z’s Mental Health

complexity of Gen Z mental health

The prevailing narrative blaming social media for the mental health crisis among Generation Z may be oversimplified, according to a critical examination of the issue. Psychologists like Jonathan Haidt and Jean Twenge have attributed the surge in depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among Gen Z to excessive social media use, particularly the influence of front-facing smartphone cameras.

It’s time to look further

However, critics argue that this singular focus on social media overlooks broader societal issues and cultural shifts, contributing to a moral panic that may not fully address the root causes of Gen Z’s mental health challenges. The notion that Gen Z is both “coddled” and susceptible to mental health issues due to social media selfies appears paradoxical.

While some studies suggest a correlation between excessive social media use and mental health problems, critics emphasize the weak and indeterminate nature of this relationship. For instance, one study indicates that the impact on teens’ mental health only becomes apparent after using social media for three or more hours daily. The crucial distinction between correlation and causation is emphasized, urging caution in attributing the rise in mental health issues solely to social media.

Drawing parallels to unrelated correlations, such as drownings and ice cream consumption, the argument stresses that correlation does not imply causation. The growth of social media alongside increased mental health issues in Gen Z may not necessarily indicate a causal relationship. It remains uncertain whether social media negatively impacts mental health, if individuals with degraded mental health are drawn to social media, or if there’s a reciprocal relationship.

Not all factors relate to the same findings

Furthermore, the narrative of Gen Z experiencing unprecedented mental health issues might be misleading. The generation may simply be more open and proactive in discussing mental health, reducing the stigma surrounding it. Ironically, social media platforms have played a role in this positive shift by fostering a culture of openness and awareness around mental health issues.

Thus, the complex interplay between social media and Gen Z’s mental health demands a more nuanced understanding. Rather than solely blaming social media, a comprehensive examination of societal factors and a recognition of the evolving attitudes towards mental health within Gen Z are essential for developing effective strategies to address their mental well-being.

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