Tyler Cowen: I am, by the way, not so convinced by the Jon Haidt piece on social media and mental illness: https://jonathanhaidt.substack.com/p/social-media-mental-illness-epidemic?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=1221094&post_id=104255435&isFreemail=true&utm_medium=email
Tyler Cowen: He readily admits that across individuals social media use explains only a tiny portion of the variation in happiness. His response is that it is other people’s usage of social media that makes you unhappy, because you can’t go talk to them.
Tyler Cowen: So there are (in his view) only system-wide effects, nothing that can be verified at the micro level. [TC: note the “to the point” style of WhatsApp leads to certain exaggerations and inaccuracies] Tyler Cowen: It seems to me that if the stuff makes you so miserable, young people should be able to build small social “pods” of individuals who don’t do the stuff so much, hang out together, and are just way happier.
Tyler Cowen: Furthermore, if a lot of the problem is “young girls comparing themselves to thinner others on Instagram” and the like, that should show up as an individual-level effect. Not a group effect. There can be those beautiful, envy-inducing models on Instagram even if only a small percentage of one’s peers are on Instagram.
Tyler Cowen: I agree the problem is larger with girls. And I think it is a mix of bullying, cyberbullying, envy, and unrealistic expectations. I just don’t think it is nearly as a large a problem as he claims.
Tyler Cowen: And I think that often “going to talk to other people” — you know the “Mean Girls” — is the problem itself. In that sense his various hypotheses contradict each other.
You will note also the recent result that school closures lower not raise the rate of youth suicide. It is thus hard for me to string together the hypothesis of a) “youth suicide rates are way up,” b) “this is because of social media,” and c) “social media make us miserable by taking away people to talk to and hang out with.”
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