Credit: Xinmei Liu

The US Surgeon General’s Case For A Warning Label On Social Media

The term ‘Social Media’ may give off a benign vibe, suggesting that it’s a friendly place where everyone is welcome to be themselves, yet reality has borne out that it is anything but. This is the reason why the US Surgeon General [Dr. Vivek H. Murthy] is pleading for a health warning label on social media platforms. Much like with warnings on tobacco products, it’s not expected that such a measure would make social media safe for children and adolescents, but would remind them and their parents about the risks of these platforms.

While this may sound dire for what is at its core about social interactions, there is a growing body of evidence to support the notion that social media can negatively impact mental health. A 2020 systematic review article in Cureus by [Fazida Karim] and colleagues found anxiety and depression to be the most notable negative psychological health outcomes. A 2023 editorial in BMC Psychology by [Ágnes Zsila] and [Marc Eric S. Reyes] concurs with this notion, while contrasting these cons of social media with the pros, such as giving individuals an online community where they feel that they belong.

Ultimately, it’s important to realize that social media isn’t the end-all, be-all of online social interactions. There are still many dedicated forums, IRC channels and newsgroups far away from the prying eyes and social pressure  of social media to act out a personality. Having more awareness of how social interactions affect oneself and/or one’s children is definitely essential, even if we’re unlikely to return to the ‘never give out your real name’ days of  the pre-2000s Internet.