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  • Translator: MARIA TIAKA Reviewer: Peter van de Ven

  • I'm fat.

  • Wow, I'm fat.

  • She's only nineteen years old, what am I doing with my life?

  • Hey! Two likes! Nice.

  • Do I like this photo?

  • Does she really need more likes?

  • I hope I'm going to be invited to the wedding.

  • One more like, nice!

  • Welcome to the internal monologue of a typical social media scroll.

  • A monologue that so many of us have every day,

  • but we don't think about it, we don't talk about it.

  • In fact, many of us can't even recognize it happening.

  • I'm Bailey Parnell,

  • and I will discuss the unintended consequences

  • social media is having on your mental health.

  • I will show you what's stressing you out every day,

  • what it's doing to you,

  • and how you can craft a better experience for yourself online.

  • Just over a year ago,

  • my sister and I took a four-day vacation to Jasper, Alberta.

  • This was the first no-work vacation I had taken in four years.

  • On this vacation, I was going dark.

  • I was turning on airplane mode, no email and no social media.

  • The first day there,

  • I was still experiencing phantom vibration syndrome.

  • That's where you think your phone went off,

  • and you check and it didn't.

  • I was checking incessantly.

  • I was distracted in conversation.

  • I was seeing these gorgeous sights Jasper had to offer,

  • and my first reaction was to take out my phone

  • and post it on social.

  • But of course it wasn't there.

  • The second day was a little bit easier.

  • You might be thinking I'm ridiculous,

  • but I hadn't been completely disconnected in over four years.

  • This was practically a new experience again.

  • It wasn't until the fourth day I was there

  • that I was finally comfortable without my phone.

  • I was sitting with my sister, literally on the side of this mountain,

  • when I started thinking to myself:

  • "What is social media doing to me?

  • What is it doing to my peers?"

  • That was only four days, and it was anxiety-inducing,

  • it was stressful and it resulted in withdrawals.

  • That's when I started to ask questions

  • and have since started my master's research into this subject.

  • I've worked in social marketing primarily in higher education

  • for most of my career.

  • That means I work with a lot of 18- to 24-year-olds,

  • which also happens to be

  • the most active demographic on social media.

  • The other thing you need to know about me

  • is that I'm young enough to have grown up with social media,

  • but just old enough to be able to critically engage with it

  • in a way that twelve-year-old me probably couldn't.

  • My life is social media: personally, professionally and academically.

  • If it was doing this to me, what was it doing to everyone else?

  • I immediately found out I wasn't alone.

  • The center for collegiate mental health found that the top three diagnoses

  • on University campuses are anxiety, depression and stress.

  • Numerous studies from the US, Canada, the UK, you name it,

  • have linked this high social media use

  • with these high levels of anxiety and depression.

  • But the scary thing is that high social media use

  • is almost everyone I know:

  • my friends, my family, my colleagues.

  • 90% of 18- to 29-year-olds are on social media.

  • We spend on average two hours a day there.

  • We don't even eat for two hours a day.

  • 70% of the Canadian population is on social media.

  • Our voter turnout isn't even 70%.

  • Anything we do this often is worthy of critical observation.

  • Anything we spend this much time doing has lasting effects on us.

  • So let me introduce you

  • to four of the most common stressors on social media,

  • that if go unchecked

  • have potential to become full-blown mental health issues,

  • and this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Number one: the Highlight Reel.

  • Just like in sports,

  • the highlight reel is a collection of the best and brightest moments.

  • Social media is our personal highlight reel.

  • It's where we put up our wins, or when we look great,

  • or when we are out with friends and family.

  • But we struggle with insecurity

  • because we compare our behind-the-scenes

  • with everyone else's highlight reels.

  • We are constantly comparing ourselves to others.

  • Yes, this was happening before social media,

  • with TV and celebrity,

  • but now it's happening all the time, and it's directly linked to you.

  • A perfect example I came across in preparation for this talk

  • is my friend on vacation: 'brb, nap ...'

  • (Laughter)

  • 'Wait, why can't I afford a vacation?

  • Why am I just sitting here in my PJ's watching Netflix?

  • I want to be on a beach.'

  • Here's the thing, I know her very well.

  • I knew this was out of the ordinary for her.

  • I knew she was typically drowning in schoolwork.

  • But we think, 'Who wants to see that?'

  • The highlights are what people want to see.

  • In fact, when your highlights do well,

  • you encounter the second stressor on social media.

  • Which is number two: Social Currency.

  • Just like the dollar, a currency is literally something we use

  • to attribute value to a good or service.

  • In social media, these likes, the comments, the shares

  • have become this form of social currency by which we attribute value to something.

  • In marketing, we call it the 'Economy of Attention'.

  • Everything is competing for your attention,

  • and when you give something a like or a piece of that finite attention,

  • it becomes a recorded transaction attributing value.

  • Which is great if you are selling albums or clothing.

  • The problem is that in our social media,

  • [WE are the product.]

  • We are letting others attribute value to us.

  • You know someone or are someone that has taken down a photo

  • because it didn't take as many likes as you thought it would.

  • I'll admit, I've been right there with you.

  • We took our product off the shelf because it wasn't selling fast enough.

  • This is changing our sense of identity.

  • We are tying up our self-worth of what others think about us

  • and then we are quantifying it for everyone to see.

  • And we are obsessed.

  • We have to get that selfie just right, and we will take 300 photos to make sure.

  • Then we will wait for the perfect time to post.

  • We are so obsessed

  • we have biological responses when we can't participate.

  • Which leads me to the third stressor on social media.

  • Number three: F.O.M.O.

  • It's a light phrase we've all thrown around.

  • F.O.M.O., or the 'fear of missing out', is an actual social anxiety

  • from the fear that you are missing a potential connection,

  • event, or opportunity.

  • A collection of Canadian Universities found that 7/10 students

  • said they would get rid of their social networking accounts

  • if it were not for fear of being left 'out of the loop'.

  • Out of curiosity, how many people here

  • have, or have considered deactivating your social.

  • That's almost everyone.

  • That F.O.M.O. you feel, the highlight reels, the social currency,

  • those are all results of a relatively 'normal' social media experience.

  • But what if going on social every day was a terrifying experience?

  • Where you not just question your self-worth

  • but you question your safety?

  • Perhaps the worst stressor on social media is number four:

  • Online Harassment.

  • 40% of online adults have experienced online harassment.

  • 73% have witnessed it.

  • The unfortunate reality is that it is much worse and much more likely

  • if you are a woman, LGBTQ, a person of color, muslim -

  • I think you get the point.

  • The problem is that in the news we are seeing these big stories:

  • The 18-year-old Tyler Clementi,

  • who took his life after his roommate secretly filmed him kissing another guy

  • and outed him on Twitter.

  • We see women like Anita Sarkeesian being close to shamed of the internet

  • and sent death and rape threats for sharing their feminism.

  • We see these stories once it is too late.

  • What about the everyday online harassment?

  • What about that ugly snapchat you sent your friend

  • with the intention of it being private, and now it is up on Facebook?

  • 'And so? It's just one photo, it's funny.'

  • 'Just one mean comment, not a big deal.'

  • But when these micro moments happen over and over again, over time,

  • that's when we have a macro problem.