Helping Young Adults in the Social Media Age
The statistics keep showing us just how unhappy young people are today. The Princes Trust Macquarie Youth Index recently published its annual survey and its findings say happiness and confidence ratings in 16-24 year olds have dropped from 73 per cent in 2009 to 69 per cent in 2018.
So how can we help young people to be happier? One thought is around trying to reduce the amount of anxiety which is linked to scrutiny. Compared to the pre-digital age, the opportunities for young adults to be judged are never ending. Texting, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook - they are all a vehicle for comparisons and assessment. And often it can be relentless, critical and unkind.
It’s unrealistic to expect this age group to give up social media, so, as parents, carers, friends or relatives, how can we help them cope?
- Enter into their world and be non-judgemental. Social media matters to young people.
- Remind them that the world of social media can sometimes be a very false place and to question what they hear and see.
- Help them to look for evidence for what they’ve seen or been told on line. We can all offer up edited highlights of our life via pretty pictures on Instagram which make us look happy, but it isn’t necessarily true.
- Remind them that most people aren’t living a fabulous life or a very miserable life, the truth is likely to be in between
- Help them to reduce ‘extreme’ thinking about appearance. They’re probably not ugly, they’re probably not stunningly beautiful, they’re normal and that’s just fine.
- Remind them that they are not the centre of the universe. This may sound a bit harsh, but anxiety lessens when you remember that other people are probably more concerned about themselves than they are about judging someone else.
- Encourage young people to speak on the phone instead of texting or meet up with their friends.
- Recognise that social media can provide valuable support, friendship, opportunities and information.
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About Cathryn Bullimore
Cathryn works as a counsellor and psychotherapist in Central and South Manchester. She is particularly interested in helping with all sorts of anxiety and issues around low self esteem.