Decades ago, parents and loved ones worried about the types of messages that could be found in movies, music and TV regarding drinking, drugs and excessive partying. Today’s teens and young adults have the same negative influences that shape their vision of acceptable behavior, but now there is something more substantial to deal with: social media.
The Role of Social Media for Today’s Young Adults
Social media is everywhere. It’s a way to connect with friends and family. It’s a marketing tool for businesses. It’s a means to show support for a particular cause. It’s a great platform for running a campaign. Just about everyone uses social media in some way, whether it’s for social purposes, reading celebrity news, shopping for products or finding a new job.
While social media certainly has its advantages, these same benefits can become quick disadvantages. One of the biggest hurdles is that it opens people up to the world. Instead of knowing what goes on in your neighborhood or community, you know what’s going on in the entire world. Informed? Maybe. But for the young and impressionable, this open platform can dig deeper into the curiosity that already exists.
Teens and young adults are known for being inquisitive, and traditionally, they’ve learned about the world around them from peers. What they couldn’t learn, or were too embarrassed to ask about, they learned from TV, movies and music. Maybe these weren’t the best sources, but that’s why parents have always been encouraged to monitor these outlets. Unfortunately, today’s young people are almost never disconnected from social media.
Going through a social networking site like Twitter or Facebook, it’s easy to find photos of people drinking, partying or engaging in risky behaviors. They can also support their political views, such as being in favor of legalizing marijuana. The fact that these types of status updates get excessive attention only adds to the appeal. Plus, the savvy site Snapchat allows users to take photos and send them to select friends for a set amount of time. The media is then deleted from the servers. Is this the perfect platform for interrogating media? Indeed.
It’s Not Just for the Young
While this type of behavior seems limited to the young and impressionable, it’s not. Eighty-three percent of social media users are between the ages of 18-29, and 77% are between 30-49. It’s true that teens are impressionable, but adults of any age can be as well.
When something significant happens, it causes us to question our lives. Death, divorce, financial troubles and relocation are examples of substantial life changes that involve stress. This type of sadness and anxiety can cause people to look outside their own world and question their past and present. It opens them up to be curious about how other people live their lives, and it can reinforce the idea that partying, drinking or engaging in illegal activities is fun and acceptable.
Okay, so maybe we can all be impressionable at times, but that’s why we have our loved ones to watch out for us, right? Well, not so fast.
Social Media Can Interfere with a Healthy Recovery
Social media can be dangerous to those recovering from an addiction. When returning home from treatment, recovering addicts are encouraged to avoid all places, people and things of temptation. This is made exceptionally difficult with social media because you can’t control what another person posts. Even if a person in recovery deletes all of their past friends, an innocent photo or the lyrics to a song posted by a neutral pal can challenge a good day.
Not much research has been done on this issue, but one study was conducted last year by David Tran, a candidate for both a Doctor of Medicine and Masters Degree in Public Policy at UCLA. He looked at 37 young people who were receiving substance abuse treatment for marijuana, ecstasy and methamphetamine addictions. Here’s what Tran found:
- 92% engaged in social networking (mostly Facebook)
- 44% posted drug-related content
- 94% of their social networking friends posted drug-related content
- 97% of their social networking friends used drugs
- 77% of females and 53% of males reported that the drug-related content made them feel like they wanted to use drugs
- Only 22% of participants posted recovery-related content
It’s easy to conclude that recovering addicts should avoid social media, especially Facebook, but this isn’t an easy thing to do. The better approach is to provide more support on social media for recovering addicts. This way, they can enjoy the conveniences of networking in a way that won’t interfere with a healthy recovery. Supportive, positive friends and acquaintances are important during all stages of life, and for once, they’re only a click away. The goal is to ensure that they can be easily found by those in recovery.