Mental Health: How Media Affects Teen Social Interaction

As technology continues to advance, we find ourselves in a world with very little face to face contact. Consequently, social skills begin to slowly diminish due to a lack thereof—as teens begin to look to a virtual reality, rather than at what’s right in front of them. Not only that, but the wide range of media platforms allows individuals the ability to engage in a multitude of ways—via things such as; chat rooms, interactive games, video chats, etc.

First and foremost is chat rooms, where teens are able to interact with a diverse amount of people—from anywhere around the world. In doing so, they can sit within the comfort of their room, and make friends (online) without even having to leave home. In addition, chat rooms are easily accessible, and oftentimes a lot less difficult for those who struggle with social anxiety. As a result, while teens begin to make friends online—through the click of a button—they oftentimes fail to make friends in real life.

Second is interactive games. For, it is through such that teens have the ability to interact via avatar. They may find themselves dressing their character to look similar to them, or choosing features that differ greatly. In fact, it is through such that teens can be anything they want—and/or whoever they chose—to be. Therefore, even though it is a fictional life of fantasy they may find themselves enthralled by it, due to the control they have—and in turn, cease to socially interact with those around them.

Third is video chat, which allow teens face to face interaction, but not directly. In turn, the person is there with them, but electronically, rather than in the flesh. As a result of such, they aren’t able to hug that individual, pick up on key social cues, or hear their laugh—unless it is through a speaker, from a distance, and/or on a screen. As a result, they aren’t getting that person in their full entirety, and vice versa.

In conclusion, media can be a good thing—and/or beneficial—by allowing teens to keep in touch with friends and family at far distances, as well as providing them with knowledge of the worldly issues which surround them. However, it can also pose as a disadvantage depending on the messages that are portrayed to teens. For, the more submerged teens are in the media which surrounds them, the greater of an impact it may have on their mental health, as they become detached from the world itself. In turn, they might find themselves feeling isolated, alone, and/or “not good enough”, etc—and as a result, they may try and project an image of themselves that is the complete opposite of how they feel.

Mental Health: How Television Affects Teen Self Esteem

In a modern day world—where technology is used on a daily basis—we find ourselves being subject to television for hours on end. But, as a result of such, we’re oftentimes desensitized by it—failing to recognize the consequences that it leaves behind on the human mind. For, the general population takes in several messages at a time, whether it be through commercial, split screen, or multiple shows and movies. And in doing so, we find that individuals may begin to develop a series of problems centering around their self esteem.

First and foremost is the negative effect—that television can have—on one’s self esteem. Self esteem is defined as “confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self respect.” In turn, as teens begin to develop such, they can find it being stripped away just as quick by the films they surround themselves with—and/or what they chose to watch. Of course, there are benefits that come through television—such as providing a number of individuals with newsworthy information, and/or knowledge, that they might not have been able to gain otherwise. However, when one begins to look at the wrong messages—rather than the right ones—it can begin to pose as more of a disadvantage than a benefit.

For example, if a certain show comes on—no matter the genre—and introduces an eating disorder, substance abuse, and other such things, this can cause teens to view themselves in a different light. It might trigger certain feelings/emotions within them depending on how they see themselves when they look in the mirror before they go to school in the morning, and can pose as an even bigger problem if they already struggle with such things. In turn, this can weigh on their self esteem, as girls compare themselves to those on TV, feeling as though a “Size 2” is what they need to be beautiful. The same can go for boys—as they see the next dose of pre-workout being advertised—causing them to feel as though they need to “bulk up” to be considered masculine. The possible scenarios listed above are only some of the various triggers that teens can experience when watching TV. Yet still, such triggers can result in teens comparing themselves to the actors on “the tube”, or their surrounding peers.

In conclusion, television can affect teen self esteem in a number of unhealthy ways if teens don’t remain careful of the material/messages they subject themselves to, and how much they take in of each. As a result of such, they must make sure to develop a good sense of media literacy, to not only gain knowledge—but the ability to discern between certain content—in order to maintain good mental health. Therefore, as teens allow themselves to interact with the world which surrounds them, rather than a virtual world all it’s own, they can begin to see their well being flourish, against the weight of negative media messages which threaten to hold them back.

Literature And The Truth On Mental Health

Mental health is not only a touchy subject for those who struggle with such, but for those who don’t. For oftentimes, individuals who have not experienced a negative impact on their mental health will wrongfully criticize another, simply due to the lack of knowledge they have in relation to the issue.

For example, if one doesn’t understand mental health they may feel uncomfortable when it is brought up, or grow silent at it being mentioned. In some cases it might even be overlooked since it is not something that can be seen to the eye, but rather something within. As a result, people might just see that particular person as having everyday problems, especially if their mental disorder is being normalized/romanticized in literature to be something that it’s not.

In turn, that is why mental health must be portrayed through literature in a way that sheds light on the issue, rather than dehumanizing the individual—and causing them to be seen as a monster. Therefore, one must be careful of the material they consume because if it fails to inform them of the underlying issues related to mental health—and fails to be objective—it may be framed in an opinion based way, doing little to inform.

However, there are several ways that one can be sure—that the content he/she is consuming—is accurately representing mental health. In fact, the easiest way to distinguish such is through the writer himself/herself. For, if much of his/her work details his/her own struggle/background with depression—and/or other mental health related issues—than it is much easier for one to discern the difference between what is true and what is not.

Examples of this can be seen in not just our modern day literature, but other eras of literature as well—such as the 1900s. For, it is in this era that we see famous poet Anne Sexton’s piece titled, “Wanting to Die,” discuss the underlying feelings/emotions in relation to her depression. The piece delivers a raw authenticity that allows you to feel the truth behind the words of someone struggling with her own mental health. In turn, this is one of many examples, as there are several in poetry—and various forms of prose—that go unknown to the world, but can do so much good for those uninformed, by highlighting such a controversial issue.

In conclusion, mental health issues are oftentimes swept under the rug, even by the individual himself/herself at times—as they are told to “get over it” or “to man up.” Yet, if we allow ourselves to be more media literate we may find ourselves not only gaining knowledge, but becoming more empathetic to those around us.

Mental Health, Literature, & Education

While growing up—and transitioning between middle school and high school—many adolescents found themselves having studied the story of Romeo & Juliet. Some may have found it to be cheesy, wondering as to why Juliet would kill herself over a man. While others may have found the story to be heartfelt, as the couple declared their undying love for one another before doing so. Yet still, how often was Juliet’s suicide overlooked, in result of the romance factor?

In turn, this is something that is overlooked more often than not—especially in schools. For, many fail to see what’s going on beneath the surface of Juliet’s mind. However, if they were to look—and/or even be able to feel the way that she felt within that instance—then they might be a little more empathetic of her, and carry a different perspective on the matter.

Furthermore, one cannot imagine the depressive state that might have settled over her in that instant as a result of losing her beloved. For, negative emotions—such as grief—can allow a breeding ground for mental health issues more often times than not. But, if one was to really step into the mind—and/or shoes—of those who are faced with mental health issues, by informing themselves, they might find themselves viewing them a whole lot differently.

For, those who fail to understand mental health issues may not understand why those who struggle with such feel the way they feel—and/or act the way they act. They might even see that person as dramatic, or carry a “just get over it” mindset towards him/her. But, if such is addressed earlier in education—through literature—then desensitivity can be avoided, and stopped in its tracks. In relation, mental health issues aren’t just shown through older works, but contemporary works as well.

Unfortunately, contemporary works are oftentimes what draw the attention of our modern day society, instead of older pieces. However, as a result of such, we see these newer works talked about through social media platforms—as they are deemed as controversial—but nowhere else. Take the book—and show adapted—13 Reasons Why for example.

In conclusion, if both old literature—as well as new—that addressed mental health issued was introduced in education more frequently, how great of an impact it would make in informing others. This would allow them to be more socially aware, accepting, as well as sensitive to the mental health of others—and have a better understanding of what to do.