Katie Sullivan            

November 2, 2019

English 110 A                                                 

Professor Emerson

What is the biggest issue facing the world today? Is it global warming? Or inequality? Racism? Hunger?All of these things cannot simply have one solution, at least not one that’s possible in our world’s current state. Granted, as much as I’d love to live in pre- Reese Witherspoon Pleasantville (Ross, 1998) idealistic world of utter perfection, that is simply not the case. However, one problem that comes to mind with a feasible solution is the impact of media on the minds of teenagers and young adults. This will have a lasting impact on much of the world’s future leaders and important figures. The article titled “Camera-Ready: Young Women’s Appearance-Related Social Media Consciousness” by Higgins, Widman, Nesi, and Choukas-Bradley in which the varying authors discuss the societal pressures forced upon the young women (and men) of today’s society. Yo-Yo Ma’s essay, “Necessary Edges: Arts, Empathy, and Education”,  on the importance of including art in education and emotions mixing with reason. The last essay titled “ The Future of  Science… Is Art?” by Jonah Lehrer discusses how for science to progress, art is a quintessential aspect. The media and social media, as well as the newfound culture it has created seriously impact the health of future generations, both physically and mentally, but art and science can work as one for a solution.

If you give it some thought, this concept seems crazy: an application for smartphones that allows you to constantly see photos of other people, have them judge you and vice versa, and have addicting aspects to keep the user hooked such as “likes”. That is quite literally all Instagram is. With the rising of “Tik Tok”, “Snapchat” and photoshop apps like “Facetune”, more and more stereotypes are becoming an aspect of society and is only increasing the pressure to look good on today’s teenagers. Granted, I use nearly every social media platform almost everyday, so I can attest to the fact that they are, in fact, causing more “lower body esteem, greater depressive symptoms, and a host of other maladaptive outcomes” as well as “body comparisons with peers may provide women with a “standard” toward which to strive…previous research suggests that social media may create a compelling context for online body-related social comparison “(Higgins et. al. 2018). Although a science related solution to this aspect of the media would be to rewire young people’s brains to not compare and contrast everyone else to themselves, that simply is not ideal. Art would be called in from the draft to broaden the scope of what is considered the “ideal” body. Just as the culture of our judgmental and cruel world was adapting to the thought of a “not ideal” body type, it got taken down a peg or two. 

Yo-Yo- Ma has found himself put into labeled stereotypes so that society is able to process the copious amounts of people it controls. In the essay “Necessary Edges: Arts, Empathy, and Education”, Ma states that we “live in such a measuring society, people tend to put a person in a box they can put on their mental shelf”(Ma 5). People tend to see one aspect of another’s life and immediately slap a nametag on it and store it away. For example, someone could see me dancing to a song and label me as a “dancer”, but there is so much more to my existence and persona than the fact that I may dance, but by default I am labeled. This is how social media has trained our minds. We can see one photo of a girl smiling in a cafe, drinking coffee, and think she is happy and her life is perfect, picture perfect if you will. In reality she could be truly unhappy, and struggling to make ends meet or be failing classes. The ideal of perfection is constantly thrust into our minds as we aimlessly scroll for minutes and hours that the idea is engraved into our minds. This translates into real life as well, have you ever found yourself getting ready and presentable to run to the grocery store? Or putting on a good outfit to get gas? Or go to your 8 am class? It may be because it is wired in our brains to stay looking photo ready, and to keep the “Instagram persona” of perfection and permanent smiles. This idea is touched upon in the aforementioned article titled “Camera-Ready: Young Women’s Appearance-Related Social Media Consciousness”, that people (especially women) tend to prepare for any social event so that in the case of an impromptu photo opportunity, they will be ready and good to be seen through the screen. 

To touch upon the impacts on our physical health from result of social media, a TED Talk  by Adam Alter runs through the benefits of using phones and computers less. 

To summarize the essential idea of his speech, Alter expresses that with limited use of screens like laptops and phones, and the things associated with them like social media and email. Alter explained that many companies insert a mandatory screen break for their employees everyday, and some have 100% work free vacations so their employees truly get a break. This resulted in less stress, increased productivity, and an increase of overall mental and physical health. This links into the science aspect of a solution. If we know how the brain functions better with breaks from the addicting thing, then why don’t we allow more breaks? This connects to the topics mentioned in Jonah Lehrer’s article titled “The Future of Science…Is Art?”. In this piece he discusses how science and art go hand in hand, as well as how “neuroscientists study our perceptions of this world”(Lehrer 2) as well as how the mind works. Neuroscientists and Psychologists use art to gain new perspectives into things such as the effect of technology and social media on the mind.

I feel as though my writing of this essay is kind of paradoxical, since I myself am a self aware social media addict, but that also gives me the view from the inside, minus the spies. I know the effect media has on the mind of young people, especially women. Art could be toyed around with to help resolve this decade old issue, possibly by changing the way people post, as well as what people post. In the works by Ma and Lehrer, as well as the article and the TED Talk, both art and science are valuable in finding a solution to the issue at hand. Art could also be used as a way to bring attention to the issue, like in the photos included in this essay that portray the mental effects of social media. Science can be used to do research on the ways to break the addiction as well as find ways for social media to not be as effective on the minds of young people. Perhaps society will become aware of its own self destructive tendencies to strive for perfection in any way possible and drop the act. Maybe we could all use a little break from socials, and focus on global warming or inequality, racism, and hunger, and every other issue facing this world that is far more important than the amount of likes your coffee shop post received.

Works Cited

Alter, Adam. “Why Our Screens Make Us Less Happy.” TED, 2017, www.ted.com/talks/adam_alter_why_our_screens_make_us_less_happy.

Choukas-Bradley, Sophia, et al. “Camera-Ready: Young Women’s Appearance-Related Social Media Consciousness.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture, vol. 8, no. 4, Oct. 2019, pp. 473–481. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1037/ppm0000196.

for photo, used only. “Body – Shaming: Tội Ác Trên Nỗi Đau Của Người Khác.” Sóng Trẻ, 2018, www.songtre.com.vn/news/gioi-tre/body-shaming-toi-ac-tren-noi-dau-cua-nguoi-khac-41-16141.html.

Lehrer, Jonah. “The Future of Science…Is Art?” Seed Magazine, 2008, daniellevitin.com/levitinlab/printmedia/2008-The_Future-Seed_Magazine.pdf.

Rice, Asheley. “Social Media Increases The Risks Of Mental Conditions In Teens.” Health Thoroughfare, 15 Mar. 2019, www.healththoroughfare.com/medicine/social-media-increases-the-risks-of-mental-conditions-in-teens/1526.

Yo-Yo Ma, ContributorGrammy Award-Winning Cellist. “Yo-Yo Ma: Behind the Cello.” HuffPost, 7 Jan. 2015, www.huffpost.com/entry/behind-the-cello_b_4603748.