Yesterday, the student body gathered in the Chapel to hear about a topic their generation knows more about than any before: social media. In this special event, however, Dr. Tim Bono spoke to them about its particular relationship with their mental health. To mitigate the presumed reservation from those keen on scrolling their feeds shortly after he left, Dr. Bono offered the caveat that social media is not a bad thing and is, indeed, a powerful tool.
In 2013, for the first time in history, a majority of adults owned a smartphone. A correlative trend showed that the overall satisfaction and happiness showcased in teens began to dramatically decrease at the same time. There are more factors associated with mental health, of course, though many psychological habits are emphasized by social media.
Dr. Bono referred to a quotation from President Theodore Roosevelt that said “comparison is the thief of joy.” He asserts that what teens see on their social media feeds initiates an immediate comparative response within themselves. He reminds us, though, that we are social creatures by nature and while comparison is not always healthy, our practices might help us to derive more true joy and happiness from what we are seeing.
Being that we are social creatures, Dr. Bono challenged students to remark and reflect on their connections through direct communication instead of social media scrolling. “Instead of opening Instagram,” he asked, “why don’t you open your contacts app and look for someone to call or text?” Those moments of human connection affect real joy in our lives.
His next challenge he calls the “Once-A-Day Challenge.” Dr. Bono appealed to the athletes, artists and academics in the room by reminding them that we don’t become strong in our field just coincidentally. Instead, we practice and take opportunities to improve. The same, he said, goes for our willpower. If, once a day, we can ignore the ring, chime or buzz from our phone’s notification center, we can strengthen our own willpower to not rely so heavily on social media.
Dr. Bono closed with some humor, imploring the community to “not believe everything you read on the internet”—a quotation he jokingly attributed to Abraham Lincoln. His final tip of the presentation was just that. Just because something looks one way, does not mean that it always is. Look around you and find what makes you happy in your own life outside the phone screen.