Defaults can change social media

Live now sign on bookshelf
A bookshelf of my favorite children’s books holds a sign reminding me to live now.
Get off social media and into the real world.

In an article from the Wall Street Journal, I learned that some of the addictive aspects of Facebook Instagram and the other social media sites can be fixed. Like eliminating “likes” is an option. You can also stop push notifications for up to eight hours. You can even limit data collection.

How? Read this article called “How to Fix Facebook, Instagram and Social Media? Change the Defaults” by Joanna Stern linked below. It shows screen shots of where to find the defaults and lists a bunch of things parents can do to limit their children’s addictive relationship with social media. Some of these I’m going to do for myself, too. Stern also discusses legislation that’s in the works for social media.

Here’s an excerpt:

Default settings in our social-media apps were designed to benefit companies and their bottom lines. What if regulation pushed them to benefit us?

Quick homework assignment: Open Instagram, tap the head icon at the bottom right, then the three lines in the top right corner, then Settings, then Privacy. (Almost there, I promise!) Tap Posts and switch on “Hide Likes and View Counts.”

A few of you hopefully followed along. Most of you probably ignored me like the airline’s automated call system when I scream, “Representative!”

That’s OK. You’ve proven my point: Most people don’t change the default settings in their social-media apps—or any apps.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-fix-facebook-instagram-and-social-media-change-the-defaults-11634475600?mod=life_work_lead_pos5

I for one haven’t looked at the defaults in any of my apps. I think it’s a worthwhile thing to do unless you want to delete them from your life forever.

What are your thoughts about changing defaults in apps and social media? Is it something you’ve done before? What do you think is most useful for you or your kids?

Is it time for a digital detox?

early ipod
I remember when my kids’ only high tech device was this ipod to listen to music and the computer below that was not hooked up to the internet. They used disks with children’s activities for the Mac.
Bondi Blue Mac from 1998.

I was interviewed by a journalist last week for a survey about the state of American families. She reads my blog and interviewed me for a story a few years ago about parents hiring coaches to improve their parenting. You can read her article called Why some parents — including Prince Harry and his wife — are hiring parenting coaches HERE.

Last week, she asked me about major problems facing families today. I mentioned the rising costs to raise a family and also worries about the digital world, screen time and depression. I’ve read so many articles about how social media and screen time is causing depression and anxiety in our kids. The numbers are skyrocketing. Add that to the pandemic and kids literally had a year of isolation and not being with their peers.

Immediately after the interview, I ran across an article in the Wall Street Journal called: Digital Addictions Are Drowning Us in Dopamine. The article gives a scientific explanation for what is happening to our brains. I found it fascinating and thought I’d share it with you, too.

Here’s an excerpt:

Rising rates of depression and anxiety in wealthy countries like the U.S. may be a result of our brains getting hooked on the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure

By Anna Lembke, Wall Street Journal

—Dr. Lembke is a psychiatrist and professor at Stanford University. This essay is adapted from her new book “Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence,” which will be published on Aug. 24 by Dutton.

A patient of mine, a bright and thoughtful young man in his early 20s, came to see me for debilitating anxiety and depression. He had dropped out of college and was living with his parents. He was vaguely contemplating suicide. He was also playing videogames most of every day and late into every night.

Twenty years ago the first thing I would have done for a patient like this was prescribe an antidepressant. Today I recommended something altogether different: a dopamine fast. I suggested that he abstain from all screens, including videogames, for one month.

Over the course of my career as a psychiatrist, I have seen more and more patients who suffer from depression and anxiety, including otherwise healthy young people with loving families, elite education and relative wealth. Their problem isn’t trauma, social dislocation or poverty. It’s too much dopamine, a chemical produced in the brain that functions as a neurotransmitter, associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

The article helped me understand the physical issues with screens that are affecting us — as much as the emotional problems with feeling left out, bullied, comparing yourself to the make-believe social media world. Although these issues with mental health affect mostly young people, I’m sure it’s not limited to their generation entirely.

To answer my own question, “Is it time for a digital detox?” I say yes. I’m trying to find little ways each day to put down the phone or other media and do something healthy. Whether it’s sitting outside listening and watching birds, or taking time to stretch, there are ways to make it a better day and improve mental health.

Here’s another excerpt:

As soon as dopamine is released, the brain adapts to it by reducing or “downregulating” the number of dopamine receptors that are stimulated. This causes the brain to level out by tipping to the side of pain, which is why pleasure is usually followed by a feeling of hangover or comedown. If we can wait long enough, that feeling passes and neutrality is restored. But there’s a natural tendency to counteract it by going back to the source of pleasure for another dose.

If we keep up this pattern for hours every day, over weeks or months, the brain’s set-point for pleasure changes. Now we need to keep playing games, not to feel pleasure but just to feel normal. As soon as we stop, we experience the universal symptoms of withdrawal from any addictive substance: anxiety, irritability, insomnia, dysphoria and mental preoccupation with using, otherwise known as craving.

red cardinal on bird feeder
I like to sit outside and enjoy listening to and watching birds.

What do you view as the major issues facing families today?

What are your thoughts about the physical and chemical changes in the brain causing an addiction to social media, screens, video games, etc.? Have you heard about this before or is it a new concept to you?

How much time do you spend on social media like facebook, pinterest or other news sites?

WSJ says Instagram is harmful for teens

I read an interesting article today about Instagram and teen girls called “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Internal Documents Show.” Written by Georgia Wells, Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharama for the Wall Street Journal, the article says that social media may become the youth generation’s tobacco companies.

Waffles the pug. Waffles has his own Instagram account wafflezworldwide.

You can read the entire article HERE.

Here’s an excerpt:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

For the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies into how its photo-sharing app affects its millions of young users. Repeatedly, the company’s researchers found that Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, one presentation showed.

Isn’t this scary? I feel like someone’s unleashed Godzilla on the world. What will we know 10 or 20 years from now? Hopefully, we will move beyond social media and get back to in person interaction. I think if I were a parent of younger kids today, I wouldn’t let my kids have a smart phone, but stick with the flip phones or dumb phones. I didn’t get my kids smart phones until they were in high school.

Another thing I found troubling with this article is that Facebook has done internal studies for several years and they know Instagram has issues at its core. But they downplay them to the public. Our congress and senate have asked for Facebook’s studies and they do not comply with the requests.

Here’s more from the article:

In public, Facebook has consistently played down the app’s negative effects on teens, and hasn’t made its research public or available to academics or lawmakers who have asked for it.

“The research that we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect with other people can have positive mental-health benefits,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March 2021 when asked about children and mental health.

The features that Instagram identifies as most harmful to teens appear to be at the platform’s core.

The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression, March 2020 internal research states. It warns that the Explore page, which serves users photos and videos curated by an algorithm, can send users deep into content that can be harmful.

“Aspects of Instagram exacerbate each other to create a perfect storm,” the research states.

What are your thoughts about Instagram and other social media? Do you spend much time with it? Do your kids or grandkids? Do you notice a change in how they feel after they use social media? I find I’m using it less and less.

Guest Story: My Son Tried to Give Away the Cat on Facebook!

I’m excited to have my story shared by Katzenworld this morning. Check out my story and everything else all about cats from this entertaining and educational UK blog.

Hi everyone, Please find below a guest story by Elizabeth from bleuwater: Robert’s asthma and allergy appointment–on his first day home from college …

Guest Story: My Son Tried to Give Away the Cat on Facebook!

Thoughts on Leaving California

archway gate Olive the cat sitting at our gate.

Did you know there is a private Facebook group called Leaving California? I’m not sure how I ran across it, but before we made the move, I signed up. I was surprised to find out there are more than 30,000 members!

Scrolling through the posts made me feel sad in the beginning. I wasn’t convinced I wanted to leave. I loved our home downtown Palm Springs. We were two blocks from restaurants, shops and our views were breathtaking.

To add to my uncertainty, my “adult children” were beyond furious. That was the only home they’ve known prior to moving away for college and their adult lives. They both believe we made the biggest mistake in our lives by selling our home. It does have “location, location, location.” It is beautiful. But it also had its downsides. It was rustic without many modern amenities like closet space or a roomy kitchen. I was always freezing and my fingers went numb. It was big on charm, though. It was also big on expense. For some reason — partly because it’s located in California and also that it was built in the 1930s — it was terribly expensive to keep up.

birthday party for dog My kids celebrating a birthday with Natasha our rottie years ago in the family home.

The kids were so angry with us that they didn’t speak to my husband or me for a bit. This made me more sad. We invited them to come home to say good-by. We also asked the buyers if we could stay for one last Christmas. They said, sure, no problem — $8,000 and Christmas was ours. We passed and decided to bite the bullet. We left our home close to 30 days of selling.

I bring this up about my kids because I noticed this week on the Facebook Leaving California page, that a lot of people are going through the same thing with their adult children. The latest post garnered close to 400 comments. Most said “Tell them to buy it if they want it.” Others were a little more understanding to the kids’ feelings.

prom photos in backyard We celebrated several proms with photos in our back yard.

I understand how my kids feel. My mom had to sell our childhood home, which was gorgeous with stunning views, too. Unfortunately, she had to sell after she and my dad divorced and she could no longer afford the expenses. I can tell you, that was an extremely upsetting way to lose my childhood home — and my nuclear family. I felt like my world turned upside down and there was no gravity to keep me on the planet.

My husband felt our kids were acting spoiled. They weren’t entitled to the house. He said he’d been working since age 13 and didn’t want to work until the day he died to pay to live in our home. Although, he’s still working now in our new home, there will come a day in a couple years where he won’t have to.

My kids are coming to accept our new reality. I’m looking forward to COVID-19 vaccines and their visits to our new home. I can’t wait to show them the hiking trails we’re discovering, the quail running through our backyard and the sunsets and sunrises.

Nothing can take away all the great memories we had of 28 years living there. I truly believe that home is not a structure, but is with the people who love you.

view of gorgeous Palm Springs backyard Our backyard in Palm Springs.

What are your thoughts about selling a childhood home? Would your kids understand? How did you feel when your parents did the same?

 

 

Taking a break from Facebook

pug with sad face

Waffles sad face.

I used to enjoy Facebook to catch up with friends from my small home town in Washington and other family members and friends around the country. I also like the memory feature where something I posted years ago pops up.

But lately, Facebook is driving me nuts. I get aggravated that so many people are using Facebook to gripe and complain. It’s a very depressing place to go on a daily basis –regardless of your political or religious beliefs. I get upset when I see misinformation being spread and I feel a need to correct it. This hasn’t earned me many heartwarming responses.

diving off the blocks

That’s me diving off the blocks in my first swim meet.

Yesterday morning, I made two decisions. First, I decided to go back to the pool. I joined a couple friends for lap swimming with new protocols in place. We got our temperatures checked, we entered and socially distanced as we soaked ourselves in the outdoor showers before walking with masks on to the far side of the pool. We swam for 45 minutes when the lifeguard blew the whistle and we exited, masks on once again. I struggled but managed to eke out 1,150 yards. Not bad for my first time in the city pool since shelter in place last March. I loved being back in the water. I was sharing an experience live with my real friends. Not looking at posts from Facebook friends.

The second decision I made was to take a vacation from Facebook. There’s enough stuff on the news that I don’t need to see my friends and friends of friends discussions over it. Hash and rehashed. So I’m on day two of life without FB and I’m not even tempted to peak. I won’t delete my account, I just will take a break for awhile. My blog posts will still automatically post there so my friends who follow me can see my posts. I can tell that I’m already in a better mood.

Now my daughter said to give up the news altogether. I’m not sure I can do that.

cat sitting next to flowers

Now I’ll have more time to spend with Olive the cat.

Have you ever decided to take a break from Facebook and how did it make you feel?

When is social media too much for teens?

In today’s COVID-19 world, social media is more important to our children than ever. We need to understand that they need it to keep in contact with friends they can’t see in person. But, we don’t want it to become harmful either.

IMG_4872

My daughter seeking a social media pic.

I’ve wondered for years how social media is affecting our teens, and I’m thankful we never had Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat when I was a kid. I’m also glad it wasn’t a thing when my kids were young. I remember MySpace was introduced when my kids were around middle school aged and a few kids in their Catholic school posted provocative pictures. It didn’t go over well, needless to say.

An article in The Baltimore Sun by Andrea K. Mcdaniels called, Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers? has quite a few experts and studies weighing in. They’ve found good and bad outcomes, but it seems to me the bad ones outweigh the good.

The list of problems with social media includes sleeping problems, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicide. Does anyone see a problem with this trend? I’ve written about my concerns about social media and how it affects on kids here.

Have you ever had a relaxing day at the beach and watched young teens posing for that perfect Instagram pic? It’s quite funny to watch from a distance. I mean who goes to the beach with perfect hair and makeup? Not me! I prefer a big hat, a ponytail and a good book, thank you very much.

 

IMG_7398

Mirage

Where I live, we had a phenomenon called Desert X, a series of outdoor art installations that appeared in the Spring. One I call “The Selfie House” in reality is called “Mirage.” It’s a house installed with mirrors inside and out. It attracts young women dressed in bizarre outfits with friends with the sole purpose of getting a huge volume of social media clicks. The Los Angeles Times wrote about Mirage here.

Here’s a snippet from the article “Parents’ concern: Is social media bad for teenagers?”

“A study published earlier this year by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with support from the National Institutes of Health found that the more time young adults spent on social media, the more likely they were to have problems sleeping and to experience symptoms of depression.

“Another study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the incidence of major depressive incidents has increased dramatically among teens, particularly among girls, and that cyber-bullying may be playing a role.

“At American University, researchers found a link between social media use and negative body image, which can lead to eating disorders.”

 

IMG_7386

Mirage, the selfie house. designed for Desert X.

As parents, what can we do to keep tabs on how social media is affecting our kids?

ONE
Delay when your kids get smartphones.

TWO
Keep an eye on what they’re posting.

THREE
Talk to your kids about how social media is creating issues for many kids.

FOUR
Be involved in your kids’ lives and pick up on cues if things seem off. Maybe social media is behind it.

What suggestions do you have to keep our kids safe from the bad effects of too much social media?