Teen Suicide and Social Media

By Sam Vaknin
Author of “Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited

Social media and the devices that they run on are designed to be addictive, as many industry executives have confessed. Addiction is always punctuated by periods of withdrawal and its “cold turkey” excruciating symptoms. The correlation between all manner of addictions and suicide, or lesser self-destructive and reckless acts is well documented.

College freshmen are “overwhelmed” more than ever (41% in 2016 compared to 18% in 1985). But teens also experience performance anxiety when on social media. This is because these are competitive ecosystems where one’s social ranking is objectively determined by quantitative yardsticks, such as the number of “likes” or “friends” – and also publicly available, for all to see and opine on. Diagnosed anxiety among teens shot up 20% since 2007 and one sixth of all case are classified as “severe”. Peer pressure is ego-dystonic and is often expressed as bullying or mobbing or in other forms of aggression (such as black humor or brutal honesty). Such a toxic environment engenders a lot of destructive envy as well.

Studies show that teens nowadays are more insecure than in previous generations. They are especially concerned about their economic future. They are asocial: they prefer surfing to socializing with friends their age. Both dating and sexual activities have declined by more than 50% since 1985. Today’s teens are not used to privacy and, therefore, to intimacy. They are itinerant, peripatetic, and mature slowly (they are 3 years behind on every scale of personal development). Medically, contemporary teens are obese and have body image problems. Many more of them are on mind altering medication or drugs. These are all hallmarks of pathological narcissism. Twenge discovered that MMPI scores evince a fivefold increase in psychopathology in 2007 compared to 1938. Anxiety and depression have shot up sixfold.

Social media is amenable to mass hysteria, shared psychotic disorders (now no longer a diagnosis in the DSM 5), and the emergence of cults, including nihilistic cults, suicide cults, and death cults (such as ISIS which is a child of social media). This Proclivity is aided and abetted by two attendant phenomena: (1) Catastrophising: an end of days presentiment which is enhanced by (2) Unmooring: the profusion of fake news, truthiness, reality TV, and the narcissistic tide of anti-expertise and anti-intellectualism).

Studies are unequivocal: beyond a certain level, more screen time leads to reduced levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and self-esteem and to increased manifestations of anxiety and depression. All other off-screen activities had the opposite effects: sports, interpersonal interactions, religious services, consuming legacy print and electronic media, and doing homework.

Social media reflect our values: we prefer efficiency to quality or quiddity. Ours is a quantitative world. But some things do not lend themselves to speed or quantity: family life, romance, or friendships, for example. Modern technology was invented by schizoids: asocial, asexual, somewhat autistic recluses. Businessmen then took over from the engineers and stripped the outcome of anything that stood in the way of monetizing the maximum number of eyeballs. The result is a psychogenic chimera.

The ever-diminishing size of screens (from the cinema screen to the smartwatch) tracked the atomization of our ever more anomic and narcissistic societies. In his book “Suicide”, Emile Durkheim predicted that suicide rates in anomic societies will tend to increase. Since 2010, suicide among teens skyrocketed by 31% and became the leading cause of death among people younger than 24.

Sources

Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics (National Survey of Children’s Health)

Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA

Emotion, January 2018 (Twenge, Martin, and Campbell)

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Author Bio

Sam Vaknin ( http://samvak.tripod.com ) is the author of Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East, as well as many other books and ebooks about topics in psychology, relationships, philosophy, economics, international affairs, and award-winning short fiction.
He is the Editor-in-Chief of Global Politician and served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, eBookWeb , and Bellaonline, and as a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent. He was the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Visit Sam’s Web site at http://www.narcissistic-abuse.com

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