Garfield Senior High School

Depression and Technology: A Teenage Perspective

There is a rising concern regarding the link between technology use and young people with depression. Indeed, teenagers use their phones for a prolonged amount of time and studies find that the longer someone is on their phone, the higher risk there is of suicide, depression, and thoughts of suicide.

Since the release of the iPhone in 2007, there has been a significant drop in the amount of teenagers hanging out with friends, dating, and having sex. There has also been a steady increase in feelings of isolation and loneliness as well as sleep deprivation amongst teens.

These statistics, from a study conducted by San Diego State psychology professor Jean Twenge, beg the question—is technology creating problems for teenagers? As a teenager with a diagnosed mental illness, technology does play a role in the way we perceive our lives and our happiness.

For lots of teenagers like myself, life revolves around our phones. I use my phone for both social media and entertainment.

Sometimes I’ll obsessively check my newsfeed on Facebook or wait impatiently for my favorite YouTubers to upload new videos. While it certainly feels like an addiction, obsessions with social media and YouTube videos aren’t necessarily the aspects of technology use that affect my mood or outlook on life.

Rather, I felt my mental state worsening over time with what felt like a growing amount of depressing and dark media. For instance, through Facebook I became exposed to pages like Depression Memes, which currently has over 500,000 likes, as well as the ironically titled page Happiness Memes, which currently has over 100,000 likes.

Both pages revolve around creating media, usually memes, that revolve around depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

For many, these pages can be something that’s relatable but not very serious, or they can be just ironically humorous in their sadness, but for many, like me, they only serve to amplify what already felt like growing depression and a nihilistic outlook on life.

Nothing felt worth it, and I stopped socializing.

That is another thing that has decreased since the advent of the iPhone. One would think that having a device that allows for instant communication would increase social interaction, but, in actuality, it begets a lack of reason to socialize in real life.

Why would I leave my room if there was nothing for me outside? I know from experience that isolation breeds sadness, and with an already lacking social life, a person can find themselves stuck in a place where they do not have a reason to step outside into the real world.

One cannot completely blame technology for growing mental health issues in teenagers, since there are so many other factors at play. Instead, we need to understand how technology plays into the dynamics of everyday life.

For many, it is a great escape tool from an otherwise harsh reality. For others, it only serves to amplify an already growing problem in their lives.

It is critical that we be aware of the way we use technology and understand if it is really helping us, or if it is hurting us. We also need to place a larger emphasis on mental illness as a whole if we are to address this growing issue.

It’s time for teenagers to understand the role technology plays in their mental health but more importantly that it’s okay to have these problems and to seek the help needed.