The Hidden Dangers Of Social Media - Jonathan Haidt

The Hidden Dangers Of Social Media - Jonathan Haidt

The Uniqueness of the New Generation (00:00:00)

  • Every generation complains about the next, but the current situation is different.
  • The mental health of the young generation has suddenly and significantly declined.
  • There has been a doubling of the suicide rate among pre-teen girls.
  • There has been a widespread decline in mental health across many nations, starting around 2012-2013.

What Does a Good Childhood Look Like? (00:01:10)

  • Childhood is a crucial period for brain development and cultural learning, with humans having a longer childhood compared to other animals, allowing for more time to learn and develop.
  • The current generation of children spends excessive time on social media and devices, which can negatively impact their development, exposing them to extreme content and promoting addictive behaviors through algorithms.
  • Parents should exercise caution when providing their children with devices and consider using parental controls to limit exposure to harmful content.
  • Social media companies employ various tactics, such as stimulating content, to capture users' attention and sell products.
  • Excessive technology use, especially during early childhood development, can negatively affect brain development, contrary to initial beliefs about its positive impact.
  • The widespread adoption of technology created a false sense of normalcy, leading to the neglect of potential risks associated with its use.

Changes in Parenting Styles (00:07:06)

  • There has been a long-term transition in parenting styles over generations.
  • As societies have become wealthier and safer, and families have gotten smaller, parenting has become more lenient and unstructured.
  • Physical punishments and strict rules have decreased, leading to a more gentle approach.
  • The mental health crisis is worse for children in families on the left than on the right.
  • Liberal kids, especially liberal girls, have been hit the hardest by the mental health crisis.
  • Children from religious or conservative families seem to be less affected by the mental health crisis.

Lack of Discipline in Modern Parenting (00:10:59)

  • Modern parenting lacks discipline, leading to hypersensitivity and fragility in children.
  • Children need to be exposed to discomfort and setbacks to develop resilience and strength.
  • It's important for kids to learn how to accept injustice and deal with unfair situations.
  • Authoritative parents make mistakes sometimes, but children who trust their parents overall can learn to cope with occasional unfairness.
  • Employers may prefer hiring individuals who have faced and dealt with injustice compared to those who expect constant fairness.
  • The current trend of protecting children from discomfort and unfairness may hinder their development and future success.

The Importance of Risk in Play (00:15:16)

  • The business world operates differently from what is taught in universities, and one tactic used to manipulate situations is called "crank on confirmation."
  • The business world is unpredictable and demanding, requiring individuals to handle unexpected challenges and disruptions effectively.
  • The "Overton window of sensitivity" refers to the range of experiences an individual is familiar with, and deviations from this range can cause discomfort or dysregulation.
  • Risky play and thrill-seeking are essential for child development, helping children learn to manage and assess risks, which is crucial for navigating life's uncertainties.
  • Overprotecting children and preventing them from experiencing challenges can lead to mental fragility and an inability to handle difficult situations.

Is the Education System Ruining Kids? (00:20:47)

  • The traditional education system, with its emphasis on early academics and testing, may not be the best approach for children's development. Play and unstructured time are essential for children's development, especially in kindergarten and first grade.
  • Test scores have been declining since 2012, coinciding with the rise of smartphone usage among children. Smartphone usage in schools distracts students, reduces their attention span, and contributes to loneliness.
  • Children's reading for pleasure has declined since 2017, potentially due to the influence of smartphones. A study conducted by Jean Twenge shows a decline in the number of young people who read books for pleasure.
  • The decline in book reading started before 2012 but accelerated after the introduction of smartphones and social media. The constant need to consume, post, and monitor content on social media takes up a significant amount of time, leaving little room for hobbies, reading, and other activities.

The Problem With Ideological Academia (00:27:16)

  • Education schools have been accused of being ideologically progressive since the 1930s.
  • The loss of viewpoint diversity in education leads to structural stupidity, where people are afraid to challenge stupid ideas for fear of being labeled conservative, sexist, or racist.
  • Students in education programs complain that they are not learning how to teach, but rather only about racial justice and equity.
  • Elite education schools have become very ideologically progressive, with a focus on gentle parenting and equality of outcomes by race, regardless of inputs.
  • Education schools are losing the trust of centrists, Republicans, and anyone who cares that their kids get an education.
  • The education system in the US is becoming very ideologically progressive.

Latest Data on Social Media’s Impact (00:30:45)

  • Social media usage, especially among girls between the ages of 12 and 16, has been strongly linked to mental health issues.
  • Critics argue that correlation does not imply causation, but substantial experimental evidence supports a causal relationship.
  • Studies with longer intervention periods find significant improvements in mental well-being when social media usage is reduced.
  • The consistency of findings across multiple studies suggests a causal relationship between social media use and mental health issues.
  • The proposed mechanism for the negative impact of social media is the loss of play-based childhood and the rise of phone-based childhood.

Primary Harms of Technology on Kids (00:38:47)

  • Excessive screen time, particularly during childhood, can hinder children's development by limiting face-to-face interactions and causing sleep deprivation.
  • Synchronous interactions, like multiplayer video games, are better than asynchronous interactions, like social media, but both lack the benefits of face-to-face interactions.
  • Video games lack the valuable arguments and disputes that occur during face-to-face interactions, which are crucial for children's development.
  • Screen time can lead to sleep deprivation, especially when addictive devices are present in children's rooms, negatively impacting their physical and mental health.
  • Attention fragmentation caused by constant interruptions and distractions can hinder the development of executive function in teenagers, affecting their productivity and creativity.
  • Video games can be addictive, particularly for boys during puberty, and can have lasting negative effects on their social and emotional development.
  • Social media and internet use can negatively impact both boys and girls, reducing time spent with friends, hindering social skills development, and contributing to mental health issues.

Is Social Media Use Addiction or Compulsion? (00:46:12)

  • Social media use can be seen as a compulsion rather than an addiction.
  • Compulsive behavior is characterized by repetitive actions that provide temporary relief or satisfaction.
  • Addictive behaviors can also lead to compulsive behaviors.
  • The semantics of addiction and compulsion may not be crucial in understanding the negative effects of social media use.
  • There is a debate among addiction researchers about whether behavioral addictions are true addictions.
  • Brain activity in heroin or cocaine addiction is well-studied, while behavioral addictions may differ.
  • Gambling addiction can lead to a loss of control, forgetfulness of troubles, and financial problems.
  • Compulsive gambling behavior can be considered both a compulsion and an addiction.
  • Social media compulsive use shares similarities with gambling addiction, including features copied from casinos.

How Boys & Girls Use Technology Differently (00:49:48)

  • Boys are motivated by agency, seeking control and action in their activities, while girls are driven by communion, prioritizing connection and communication.
  • In face-to-face interactions, women tend to stand at a 180-degree angle to each other, while men stand at a 120-degree angle, possibly due to evolutionary factors.
  • Virtual interactions lack the embodied and physical aspects of real-world interactions, impacting how individuals perceive and respond to each other.
  • Girls are drawn to visual social media platforms like Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest, where they post pictures of themselves and wait for strangers to comment, negatively affecting their mental health.
  • Boys spend more time on video games and YouTube, which doesn't directly cause depression but contributes to a gradual increase in depression and anxiety.
  • Boys have been withdrawing from the real world since the 70s and 80s due to societal shifts towards girls and a focus on girls' needs in education.
  • Boys find school less appealing and are increasingly drawn to video games and pornography as sources of entertainment and gratification.
  • The progressive withdrawal of boys from real-world efforts that yield long-term benefits is concerning, as their energy and desires are directed into virtual worlds that generate no tangible value.

The Male Sedation Hypothesis (00:56:46)

Are Gen-Z Bothered About Status? (01:02:37)

  • Social media can be addictive and unproductive, especially for Gen Z individuals who prioritize status and validation.
  • Boys and men often engage in physical competition for status, while dating and video games also serve as avenues to gain social standing.
  • Despite their creativity and productivity, Gen Z lacks impactful contributions to society compared to previous generations, with few exceptions like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai.
  • The pursuit of social media influence and quantification of success hinders the generation of meaningful impact beyond online presence.
  • Artificial intelligence and automation may offer hope for a smaller number of individuals to have a larger impact, compensating for the lack of real-world innovation from Gen Z.
  • While digital technology and artificial intelligence promise material prosperity and physical health advancements, concerns arise about the erosion of social structures and institutions essential for a stable society.
  • Social media has accelerated societal decline, leading to increased material prosperity but decreased trust in institutions.
  • Social media is a powerful tool that can be used for good or for evil.
  • It's important to be aware of the potential dangers of social media so that you can use it wisely.
  • Social media companies use dopamine-driven design to keep users engaged.
  • Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward.
  • When you get a like or a comment on social media, your brain releases dopamine, which makes you feel good.
  • This positive reinforcement encourages you to keep using social media, even if it's not good for you.
  • Social media can lead to social comparison, which is the tendency to compare ourselves to others.
  • This can be harmful to our self-esteem, especially if we compare ourselves to people who seem to be more successful or happier than we are.
  • Social media can create a false sense of reality, making us believe that everyone else's life is perfect.
  • Confirmation bias is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our existing beliefs.
  • Social media algorithms can reinforce confirmation bias by showing us content that we're likely to agree with.
  • This can lead us to become more polarized in our views and less open to new ideas.
  • Filter bubbles are created when we only see content from people who share our views.
  • This can lead to us becoming more isolated and less tolerant of other opinions.
  • Filter bubbles can also make it difficult to get accurate information, as we're only exposed to one side of the story.
  • Echo chambers are similar to filter bubbles, but they're created when we only interact with people who share our views.
  • This can lead to us becoming more entrenched in our beliefs and less willing to consider other perspectives.
  • Echo chambers can also make it difficult to have productive conversations about important issues.
  • Trolls are people who intentionally post inflammatory or offensive comments on social media.
  • Cyberbullying is the use of electronic devices to bully or harass someone.
  • Trolls and cyberbullies can make social media a hostile environment, especially for young people.
  • Social media can be addictive, as it can provide a constant source of dopamine hits.
  • People who are addicted to social media may find it difficult to control their use of it, even if it's negatively impacting their lives.
  • Social media can be a great tool, but it's important to be aware of the potential dangers.
  • By understanding how social media works, you can use it in a way that's healthy and positive.

Latest Data on Female Mental Health (01:12:34)

  • Teenage girls are experiencing a significant increase in internalizing disorders, particularly depression and anxiety.
  • The number of teenage girls with depression or anxiety disorders has increased from 10-15% to around 30-40%.
  • This trend is more pronounced in Western countries, with young people, especially girls, experiencing a decline in happiness.
  • Hypersexualization and the pornification of media negatively impact girls' development.
  • Young girls on social media are exposed to unrealistic beauty standards, leading to body image issues and decreased self-esteem.
  • Girls are increasingly using skincare products and makeup at a young age, which can result in a loss of girlhood and a focus on appearance.
  • Exposure to older men and the pressure to send nude photos can lead to girls' humiliation and commodification.

Why is Anxiety the Most Prevalent Feeling? (01:17:31)

  • Anxiety is the most prevalent emotion in modern times, with disorders such as anxiety and depression becoming increasingly common.
  • The evolutionary perspective suggests that anxiety is a coping mechanism, but it is currently overstimulated.
  • Two major contributing factors to anxiety are:
    • Loss of thrilling play in childhood: Children who don't learn to manage risks through play become more susceptible to anxiety.
    • Growing up on the stage: Social media creates a constant stage where every action and word is amplified and scrutinized, leading to intense anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.
  • Give kids a normal human childhood: Children need opportunities for thrilling play and risk-taking to develop resilience and manage anxiety.
  • Limit exposure to social media: Reduce the time spent on social media, especially for children and adolescents, to mitigate the negative impact on mental health.
  • Promote healthy coping mechanisms: Encourage activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and spending time in nature to manage anxiety and promote well-being.

How We Solve the Teen Mental Health Crisis (01:21:11)

  • To promote a play-based childhood, parents should delay giving their children smartphones until around age 14-15 and postpone social media usage until age 16.
  • Schools can enhance education and reduce distractions by implementing phone-free policies.
  • Encouraging independence, real-world interactions, and unsupervised play among children is crucial for their development.
  • Coordinating with other parents and utilizing resources from organizations like delay and smartphone free can help create a phone-free environment for children.

Where to Find Jonathan (01:28:04)

  • Jonathan Haidt can be found on Substack at, where he and Zack Rous share their research, findings, and graphs, and invite comments and criticism.
  • The website for his book, "Anxious Generation," is
  • His book, "Anxious Generation," can be purchased wherever books are sold.
  • Social media can be addictive and can lead to negative outcomes such as anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
  • Social media can create echo chambers, where people are exposed to a limited range of opinions and perspectives, which can lead to polarization and a lack of critical thinking.
  • Social media can be used to spread misinformation and propaganda, which can have a negative impact on society.
  • Social media can lead to a decrease in face-to-face interactions and a decline in social skills.
  • Social media can be a source of cyberbullying and harassment, which can have serious consequences for victims.

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