So, They Want to Slap Warning Labels on Social Media?

My, how the times have changed

Warning: social media can cause addiction. Do not use social media if you aren't living your best life, are susceptible to FOMO, are slightly depressed, or will likely become depressed when you inevitably compare your life to others. By using social media, you will be exposed to fake news, graphic or violent content, distorted images, and infinite scroll.

In the early days of social media, we were told that virtual technology would help us stay connected, and for years platforms like Facebook met and exceeded expectations. We reunited with long-lost friends, discovered a convenient yet passive way to flirt and were given a free platform to both satisfy our curiosity and express anything we wanted to share.

It took little to no convincing to get us to fill in the prompt, "What's on your mind?" with mundane answers like "eating lunch," and other "deep thoughts" as if no one was collecting the data. At the time, I doubt anyone was worried about adverse side effects, but here we are, declaring war on social media, just like we did on drugs over 50 years ago.

It's sad that it's come to this. But as someone who has worked as a strategist, like, forever, I remain optimistic and somehow cope with doomscrolling just to learn what's trending. Long gone are the days when social media was filled with unedited photos and impromptu videos with no production team or an influencer in sight; back when we weren't focused on ads and algorithms, and we innocently poked our friends and showered them with digital validation and good intentions.

Nowadays we're bombarded with stories about viral challenges gone bad and content creators who suffer from the pressure to continuously perform while at the same time being continuously exposed to unrealistic expectations which has put our collective mental health in shambles, unsurprisingly hitting adolescents the hardest.

Earlier this month, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy declared "the mental health crisis among young people is an emergency—and social media has emerged as an important contributor. It is time to require a surgeon general's warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms."

Warning labels are nothing new—Congress passed a law mandating that food products carry a list of ingredients in 1938 and labels have been required on products containing "toxic substances" since 1973.

It certainly seems like our responsibility to warn the next generation about the risks of using social media.

As Dr. Murthy notes, spending inordinate amounts of time with such platforms—"has not been proved safe. This is the consequence of unleashing powerful technology without adequate safety measures, transparency or accountability."

Leslie Richin
Leslie Richin is a digital media strategist and freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. In addition to Muse, she has contributed to Billboard, Hollywood Reporter, Spin, Paste, Adweek, Spotify for Artists News, PopMatters, ABC News, Bethesda Magazine and Curl.

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