By: Mireya Lavender.
It’s September. It’s almost the end of sidewalk-egg-frying season and early into your fifth-grade year. Your class has been herded into your school’s gym or auditorium and you sit eagerly awaiting a presentation keeping you out of reading time. A speaker comes to the front and the student body fizzles into unrestful silence. This image appears on a screen and the next hour is spent explaining every detail by some overly excited adults in food costumes.
Year after year this idea of what we should and shouldn’t eat is tweaked and repeated. This knowledge has likely contributed more guilt after consuming entire pizzas or one too many cookies than actually preventing anyone from eating them. Regardless of how closely this outline for health impacts us, we know the basics: we eat to fuel our bodies and what and how much we feed ourselves largely determines how we feel.
But what about the things we consume that aren’t food?
Despite our society’s relentless obsession with how we feed our bodies, there is hardly any emphasis on how we feed our minds.
Look around you. How many people are staring at their phones, engrossed in a reality only tangible in the virtual world?
If you’ve ever seen a documentary on the food industry, you’ve likely seen the dramatization of herds of cows crowded between small shaded areas, heads between bars and faces constantly buried in a questionable-looking feeding trough.
While the background orchestra and black and white footage invoke the uncomfortable and sickening feelings the vegetarians of the world pride themselves on, we hardly feel the same as we see and are included among the masses of humans with our heads turned down and faces buried in any of the endless media outlets.
Every day, at least several times, and likely for a number of hours we won’t admit to, billions of people, and teenagers in particular, ‘feed’.
We eat and eat and eat, mindlessly consuming often more out of habit than anything else. Across an average of 5 social media outlets per person, we are engrossed in scrolling through our feeds every free moment we get. If it was food we were devouring, the epidemic of obesity would no longer be an epidemic but the social norm.
In a study conducted by Common Sense Media (CNN), it was found that teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day (70 hours a week) engaging with social media platforms.
At this rate, over 30 years of our lives would be spent on social media in even the least extreme case.
Spending between ⅓ and ½ of our time on digital devices, our time is less occupied by real-world experiences that make us human and more by the world of instant gratification facilitated by the internet.
This over-connection has resulted in an under-connection with ourselves and real people, a fact multiple sources have proven to be correlated with unprecedented high rates of mental illnesses. At least one in five teenagers are coping with some form of mental illness on a daily basis and these numbers have been found to be directly related to social media use. In every case where screen-time is increased, so are feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image and a sense of loneliness (Health).
Because of physical differences in our brains as they develop into adulthood, we as teenagers are biologically more easily influenced in negative ways by media.
In many cases of societal issues, researchers research and leaders take charge to put in place outlines for what is best or safest or healthiest. While these steps are useful in providing background information and a general direction, the researchers and leaders can’t prove what is true for you.
In other words, you wouldn’t give up peanut butter just because someone you know is allergic right?
I can’t tell you if how you use social media is good or bad for you. What I will tell you is that just as how much and what we eat affects how we feel, the media we consume becomes a part of us whether or not we are aware of it. I’ve noticed how it influences me and I’ve found what works for me.
Don’t let yourself be crowded between the masses of people with their faces in their phones while their humanity slowly slips away.