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But some time away from Meta could
“Sometimes we feel like we’re not living our lives. Like a glitch in the Matrix: we suffer from loneliness, a pointless life, we don’t understand our true goals.”
These are the words of Dr. Andrey Kurpatov, a Russian psychotherapist, author of “The Red Pill: Look Truth in the Face” and other psychology popularization books. While there’s a lot more to his message, for the purpose of this story I’ll name these key points from the book: stop wasting your lives getting entertained by media, get rid of stereotypes in your head, start thinking critically, and embrace your individuality.
Dr. Kurpatov has not paid me to mention him in this story; his works are my personal recommendation for anyone who’s not happy with the way his or her life is going.
Which, by the way, involves nearly half of U.S. teens.
From 2012 to 2023, the number of students who say they do not enjoy their lives surged from under 20% to 50%, according to a University of Michigan poll of 50,000 8th, 10th, and 12th graders nationwide. I referred to these numbers in my earlier story about Cartwheel, a mental health support startup for schools: in 2021, 42% of students felt persistently sad or hopeless and 22% considered attempting suicide.
There is no doubt that there are numerous causes to this crisis. Bullying. Obsession with identity, which drives confusion about identity. Eating disorders. Bad parenting. Bad teachers. But alarms have been sounding on this top cause, which impacts a child regardless of parenting or the environment: screen time, obsession with social media in particular.
“The paradox is that hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure for its own sake, leads to anhedonia, which is the inability to enjoy pleasure of any kind.”
That’s a quote from another book, which might sound more familiar to you than my first reference: “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence” by psychiatrist Dr. Anna Lembke. She writes about the addiction crisis in the U.S. – and not just the addiction to drugs, gambling, food, and other vices, but to any quick stimuli including Facebooking, Instagramming, and tweeting (should that be X-ing?).
And there is a ton of great books out there on this topic, urging dopamine detox. But who reads books these days? Certainly not the teens. And guess what? – if you are not the kind of parent who reads books, your child will not grow up to be a book reader either.
This story was supposed to be about Meta’s new restrictions for teens on its social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. The new filters should protect minors from harmful content related to eating disorders, self-harm, and violence – if they had entered their birthdays correctly upon registration, that is.
While this development is a big win for parents, minors, and all the 41 states fighting Meta in court over its platforms’ addictive features, it’s not going to stop your child’s screen time problem. Harmful content aside, that dopamine addiction is not going away easily, and neither is depression.
I cannot call upon the public to drop entertainment altogether – we all need a bit of an escape at times. But integrating a bit of media asceticism into your life will definitely help you clear your mind.
The aforementioned Dr. Kurpatov, for example, urges to break up your content intake and add in 20-minute intervals without any outer content coming in – just you and your thinking mind. In those intervals, your brain will be able to organize and analyze that bulk of data – and who knows, it might even conjure up creative solutions to some problems you had long struggled with, or generate unique ideas that would make generative AI jealous.
And while at it, take your teen along on that detox journey. No movie watched jointly would bond you lot like a creative brainstorm.
Ultimately, it’s what makes creators out of consumers.
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