The new student movement wants you to sign out
Millennials may be the first generation to grow up online, but their Gen Z successors have really grown up with it – and almost never signed off.
A 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 95% of teenagers have access to a smartphone; 45% say they use the Internet almost constantly. For many of them, social media is a space for self-expression, entertainment, and connection.
But as social media use has increased among teenagers, so has the rate Depression, worry and Suicide. Although the relationship is not directly correlated, there is evidence that certain backgrounds exacerbate youth mental health problems; for example, internal research papers from Facebook, leaked to The Wall Street Journal by whistleblower Frances Haugen, pointed out that Instagram exacerbates the body image problem of one in three teenage girls.
One Research March 2022 published in the scientific journal Nature shows that the relationship between social media use and mental health varies with age, but has two windows where social media use is most likely to have a negative impact on adolescent well-being: at the onset of puberty and back around age 19.
Emma Lembke, a rising sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis, have experienced those negative effects first-hand. That’s why she started Motion logout in June 2020. The project aims to foster dialogue among young people who are feeling the ill effects of social media and want to correct their relationship with it.
In a phone interview, 19-year-old Lembke talked about the movement she started, the ups and downs of social media, and how she’s worked to loosen it up to preserve her health. Interview has been edited for clarity.
What was the first social network you joined?
I joined Instagram when I was 12 years old.
How has the social media experience been for you?
I spent at least six hours a day on these apps, just mindlessly scrolling, absorbing all these unrealistic body standards. That leads to disordered eating. It just becomes a terrible loop when continuing to use these apps, specifically Instagram, feels worse about myself, but I feel as though I can’t stop scrolling because it has so much power. weird for me. Social media is used as a tool to amplify negative attributes and feelings that I really don’t want to have.
Many recent news reports have highlighted the negative effects that social media can have on youth and self-esteem. How did those stories influence your thinking about the project?
The first article I read that really got me into it was How smartphones destroyed a generation. I found study after study showing a possible correlation between increased rates of anxiety, suicide rates, and eating disorder monitoring with increased rates of drug use.
What other factors motivated your decision to start the Sign Out Movement?
The most powerful thing for me is not the studies. It’s the fact that personal stories aren’t told and there’s no epicenter where people can come together and say, “This is my personal experience.” “This is how I was harmed.” “These are accounts that make me feel worse about myself.” I know it’s necessary. The genie was out of the jar.
As members of Gen Z, we understand that social media has positive attributes and negative attributes, but right now, with current usage, it can be really harmful.
How does the Sign Out movement solve these problems?
Through our podcast, a leadership panel, an education program on how to safely use online spaces, and blogs, we are discussing ways we can move forward with technology. and allow it to be a tool again instead of a controller.
What we’re asking teens to do is be comfortable talking about their experiences so we can educate legislators to understand the Gen Z perspective, what we need from technology, what We’re dealing with privacy, what our mental health concerns are. We have a policy advocacy initiative through Technology[nically] Politicspromote laws that help ensure youth have a safe online experience, namely California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill.
Your website says that you intend to promote healthy ways to survive on social media, rather than asking people to log out altogether. What does a healthy interaction with social media look like?
I know that for me, I can’t log out completely. A healthy use of social media would be any interaction where the user feels as though they are being benefited and their health is not being harmed. It’s mental reflection for a second and contemplating what makes you happiest and why you’re on social media. If you don’t benefit at all, then I would say that the healthiest way of being on social media and the healthiest habit is to log out.
Having some digital presence can feel inevitable in this day and age. However, it is not all consumption. How have you adjusted your relationship with social media? What methods have worked?
Whenever I go through a stressful period with exams, I delete Instagram. I know that in times of stress, I will mindlessly use it as a form of coping. Another that works for me is Grayscale, which makes the phone appear only in black and white.
I always recommend Screentime Genie, provides solutions on how to limit device usage time. I use Habit Labs for Chrome, which helps you reduce your time online. It creates a level of friction between you and the addictive technology.
Are there any apps you particularly like?
Be realistic Is my hobby. At some point in the day, you’ll get a notification that says, “It’s time to make it happen.” And you take pictures of whatever you’re doing. It feels like a real moment in someone’s day.
What feedback have you received from other teens?
One person spends six hours a day on social media and says her eyes hurt. She says she can see better now. She feels the world is so much clearer, both mentally and physically, to her.
What changes have you seen in your mental health as a result of limiting your social media use?
I’m still dealing with my generalized anxiety disorder, OCD But I can tell you dramatically, the symptoms, especially around my body image, have really decreased.
What is your end goal with this endeavor?
I really just hope that it leads to some sort of axis that prioritizes user happiness in these online environments. Technology is embedded in our generation’s DNA. It is working to promote regulation, so that more systematic change can happen, where people can feel better protected and find healthier habits.