Fascinating results. Another study that may be useful is, rather than approach reduction of social media time on an individual basis, approach it from a group dynamic.

What I mean is, rather than having one kid get off of it, have groups of friends get off it and see what the results are.

I would hypothesize this would have a sort of negative network effect, where if a kid knew that not only he was off it, but his 2-3 bffs were as well, it would improve his mental state to a greater degree than cutting the preverbal cord alone, because there would be no little FOMO voice whispering in his ear.

Personally, I have told my wife and kids there will be no social media of any type until they are 18, period. And that is a hill I will die on. You know my wife will be getting this post sent to her.

Thanks Richard.

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Mar 2·edited Mar 2Liked by Richard Hanania

I had a strong prior to believing this was true because of my case study with sample size 2. Namely me and my teenage niece. She is about as functionally interchangeable with teenage me as it's possible for another human being to be (both female, both autistic, both massive nerds who read dozens of fantasy books a year, both massively online, both really into video games, both with gnawing social anxiety, etc.) The only really meaningful difference is I grew up in the 90s and early 00s before social media really became I thing.

I've consistently been happy my whole life. Never had depression. Content to disappear into my head or books or esoteric websites and be a weird hermit. My teenage years consisted of nothing but feeling slightly weird for about a year around 7th grade and then somebody flipping a switch between child me and adult me. It was laughably easy.

My niece has been a train wreck through most of her teenage years. She has crippling depression up to suicidal ideation, lashes out with scary temper, and her attention span is crap. All this also mysteriously improved by about 50% when my sister replaced her smart phone with a flip phone and started letting her get on only boring non social media websites on house computers.

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Mar 2Liked by Richard Hanania

I'm impressed with your ability to change your mind, and as a result of reading this am now wondering if wokeness itself is more a downstream effect of social media poisoning than I'd thought.

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Interesting post. The section about cross-national data got me thinking, though. I wonder how much of this overall mental well being doesn’t come directly from using social media per se but rather from the constant focus on mental health on many profiles on these social media.

Why I mention that?

I moved from Poland to Ireland in 2017 and then to the US in 2020. I would rate my mental well being as being the same or maybe even better now than 6 years ago. But at the same time, the amount of focus on mental health in both Ireland and the US (compared to Poland) had me wonder multiple times if maybe I’m actually in need of therapy? Maybe I’m just not aware of how bad my mental health is? After all, all these studies ask about subjective feelings.

What I’m trying to say is that people in Poland use social media way more than people in the US, at least in my millennial age cohort. During the pandemic, all of my American friends were posting about taking care of your mental health while most of my Polish friends were posting photos from walks in the park or grocery trips in full gear. But no one I know goes to therapy in Poland while on the American Facebook every second ad I see is from Betterhelp and everyone I know here actually goes to therapy or at least have some sort of a mental health help app. The mere fact that most people in the US would know what Betterhelp is tells something about the Western obsession with mental health.

It’s the same with other mental issues. For example, before I moved to the US I never considered I might have ADHD. But everyone here is diagnosed with one, because Aderall is a miracle drug that gets you through college, and I too wondered maybe I have ADHD given that it’s hard for me to focus sometimes. But of course I don’t have ADHD, it’s just that that the marketing machine is so strong. And you can see it in data, where the percentage of kids with “diagnosed” ADHD is skyrocketing.

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To me its clear that wokeness is the main culprit, though you've made your case that social media does have an effect. As Yglesias points out, liberal boys are more depressed than conservative girls! If you've been on Facebook you'll know conservatives are on social media too. So are men, and so are heterosexuals.

The international data supports this hypothesis, with a small increase in non-Anglo countries, a larger increase in Anglo countries, and the biggest increase in the US.

Overall, it's clear social media is causing a small increase in depression, especially among girls. But being liberal (specifically Anglo-style woke) is a much larger risk factor, which causes liberal boys to be more depressed than conservative girls, and for LGBT-indentifying youth (the wokest group of people in the world) to have sky-high (>70%) rates of severe depression.

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Mar 2·edited Mar 2

A causal effect of 0.1 standard deviations is pretty meaningful. It corresponds to a correlation coefficient of 0.07, which might seem small but is in fact similar to the relationship between childhood lead exposure and adult IQ. https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Haidt%20Testimony.pdf

A somewhat higher correlation of 0.17 would, if causal, fully explain the 50% rise in teen girl depression. https://chris-said.io/2022/05/10/social-media-and-teen-depression/

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good article. social media effects would be an interesting target for meta-analysis.

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Phones are merely the delivery channel for woke poison. In a different time and place the same phones might be delivery channels for positive constructive content.

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"the point is that breastfeeding is inconvenient and often hurts pretty badly"

There genuinely is something missing from your brain. Women enjoy breastfeeding, a lot, and it also helps them lose weight. Yes, it takes a bit of practice to get good at it, like anything else worth doing, but a week or two usually does it. Conversely, feeding with a bottle is boring and lame. And bottle feeding inevitably leads to the father being asked to do it, which is revolting.

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Is having a near age sibling protective?

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This is a great summary of what we consider to be traditional social media, which consists of people posting things about themselves and others. Obviously, this has ravaged teenage girls' mental health. Where the negative affects on teenage boys come into play are object-based social media (watching other people do something specific). The biggest Youtubers are people who film themselves playing video games. It's hilarious when I look at what my nephews watch on Youtube and think "what is this nonsense" and then notice the channel has 57 million subscribers.

While boys don't have it as bad on regular social media, there are a lot of smart teenage boys who aren't necessarily depressed but by all measures have checked out of the real world. I know a few teachers who are dealing with boys who just won't do any schoolwork and can't stay awake in class. When they tell the parents, they throw up their hands and say it's because they play video games from the second they get home at 3pm until they pass out at 2am. I'm not a parent yet, but you have to be willing to draw a line somewhere.

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Also, why not a wokeness co-factor story to explain the much greater effects for leftist teens? So right-wing kids really use social media much less?

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One of the biggest problems with public schools these days is that you can't keep them off the screens. They won't keep the phones away from the kids. The school will even require kids to do work on n iPad.

Recess is down to 30 min, only 30 min outside a day, yikes.

The private school we send our kids do does nothing special other than no screens and lots of outdoor time hiking and playing.

My guess is that lazy public school teachers just find the screens easier because they pacify the kids and they don't want to fight them over taking them away.

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I don’t find it hard to believe that something that increases competition in zero-sum status games has a net negative effect on mental health. Or as Houellebecq calls it, „extension de la domaine de lutte“.

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Mostly agree with everything presented.

>I tend to dislike moral panics that are used to justify government intervention in people’s personal choices or market forces, particularly of the “think of the children” variety.<

While this is an understandable sentiment, it bears mentioning that we do in fact tend to disregard personal choice or market forces when it comes to minors, and with good reason. If little Timmy wants to have candy for dinner every night and mommy says no, we tend to side with mommy. The comparison to drugs/alcohol is very good here. Nearly everyone understands that minors' access to these substances should be restricted despite whatever markets might try and do to supply them, even people who are otherwise heavily pro-market.

>the fact that the most liberal demographics, that is women and LGBT adolescents, are having the most mental problems indicates that there is something to the theory that wokeness causes misery.<

One thought I have on this point is that social isolation is likely to be more devastating to women than men, as women tend to be more interested in other people, by comparison to men who are more likely to be content sitting in their basement playing video games and less interested in scrolling endlessly through facebook status updates. This is potentially supported by the fact that, IIRC, women use social media more frequently than men and are overall more interested in it (though I certainly do not have the time nor the interest to do a deep dive on that particular question like you have here).

I should add that, of course, I also do believe wokeness causes misery. Both can be true at the same time.

My last remark is that another trend I would point to is the destruction of social institutions under the encroachment of the all-powerful state, which is itself another symptom of wokeness. In the past, young people could meet other young people who shared their interests and identities through associations such as church, school clubs, Boy Scouts, et cetera., with church in particular being a big one. All of these have been hollowed out by wokeness and, to the extent that they still exist, are often turned to politics and made to serve as a vehicle for more wokeness, which subverts their actual intended original function of providing a framework for healthy social association. And with COVID even physical attendance of schools was taken away.

Having been a young person myself once, I can recall with some level of confidence that young people do not know how to properly associate with others, and have to be socialized by adults who provide them with proper guidelines and environments in which to practice being social. But if the adults do not provide any such guidelines or environments, or worse yet actively discourage the young people from leaving the house, then the youngsters will naturally wither in isolation with predictable consequences for their social lives upon reaching adulthood.

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"completely possible for teens to become happier in the aggregate while suicide goes down"

I think you mean to say become *un*happier in the aggregate


while suicide goes *up*

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