Snippet: Depressed? It’s Your Smartphone’s Fault ☇

Shared on February 20, 2023

Ross Douthat in an opinion piece for The New York Times:

American teenagers, and especially American teenage girls, are increasingly miserable: more likely to entertain suicidal thoughts and act on them, more likely to experience depression, more likely to feel beset by “persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” to quote a survey report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. […]

Overall I think if you’re looking for a single explanatory shock, [NYU’s Jonathan] Haidt’s camp has the better of the argument. The timing of the mental health trend fits the smartphone’s increasing substitution for in-person socialization, while the Great Awokening and Trumpism are more chronologically downstream. And the coronavirus era exacerbated the problem without being a decisive shift.

Orrrrrrrrrr it could be that smartphones have given every teenager a window to our current world and they’ve been forced to grow up way earlier than they should with no voice. I’m not saying that social media and cyberbulling aren’t contributing, nor is it easier in the smartphone age. What has changed in the United States since the mid-2000s? Our country has decided that:

  • In many places, women shouldn’t have reproductive rights and bodily autonomy.
  • Mass shootings, especially at schools, are fine.
  • Corporate greed and billionaires are more important than the average person just getting by, paving the way for a lousy job market with less buying power upon graduation.
  • Consolidation of so many industries, especially media and journalism to the point that it’s become dumbed-down, lazy, poorly-researched, and/or cookie-cutter.
  • Racism and homophobia are still a thing and increasing.
  • Even when solving a global pandemic killed millions, politicians turned it into an excuse to argue even small preventative measures like masks or being courteous to others.
  • Climate change isn’t an important issue to address because you can just choose to believe it’s not happening.

I’m of the age group that witnessed the shootings at Columbine High School and the terrorist attacks on September 11th and those felt downright shocking in the moment, but still were rather disconnected and foreign. Considering how many school shootings have happened since and how so many things are trending to a mean-spirited, ignorant direction, is it really surprising teenagers feel sad and hopeless?

On the other hand, reading the mix of current news and the Opinion section in The New York Times is making me feel angry and hopeless, so maybe newspapers are the problem?

Snippets are posts that share a linked item with a bit of commentary.