by Jon Farrow
I recently saw the story of Alexandra Valoras while watching the CBS Evening News. It is an incredibly tragic story. Alexandra’s story highlights that there can be overwhelming pain behind a smile. One part of the story caught my eye. CBS News referenced suicide statistics from the CDC when detailing Alexandra’s story.
The report released by the CDC showed that the suicide rate for males aged 15–19 increased 31% to 14.2 per 100,000 population by 2015. The rates for females doubled from 2007 to 2015 (from 2.4 to 5.1). The rate in 2015 was the highest for females for the 1975–2015 period. 
The question I asked myself was why would suicide rates skyrocket? I didn’t have to look far to find my answer. I don’t believe social media is the sole cause of an increase in suicide rates among youth. I will say in my opinion, backed by multiple studies, that social media is a huge factor in the increase.
A study released by the Harvard Business Review concluded social media may detract from face-to-face relationships, reduce investment in meaningful activities, increase sedentary behavior by encouraging more screen time, lead to internet addiction, and erode self-esteem through unfavorable social comparison. Self-comparison can be a strong influence on human behavior, and because people tend to display the most positive aspects of their lives on social media, it is possible for an individual to believe that their own life compares negatively to what they see presented by others. 
All of those negative byproducts of excessive social media use leads to depression. Researchers proposed the name Facebook Depression to describe the phenomenon of social media induced depression.
“Facebook depression,” [is] defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression. Acceptance by and contact with peers is an important element of adolescent life. The intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents. As with offline depression, preadolescents and adolescents who suffer from Facebook depression are at risk for social isolation and sometimes turn to risky Internet sites and blogs for “help” that may promote substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or aggressive or self-destructive behaviors. 
I have seen social media do amazing things. The data shows though that too much of a good thing can have negative effects, especially with today’s youth. It is important to have frequent discussions with your children about social media use, as well as one on ones with your children to gauge where they are mentally and reminding them of your unwavering support. Parents need to educate themselves on the signs of depression and suicide.
In Alexandra’s case, she hid it very well. In my own personal experience when you look back after losing someone to suicide it’s easy to see the signs. Had I known what I know now I know I would have done things very differently. I can’t speak for Alexandra’s parents, but I’m sure they would do the same. Education and support is the key to stopping suicide before it happens.
1. QuickStats: Suicide Rates for Teens Aged 15–19 Years, by Sex — United States, 1975–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:816. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6630a6 [Accessed 27 Sep. 2018].
2. Shakya, H. and Christakis, N. (2018). A New, More Rigorous Study Confirms: The More You Use Facebook, the Worse You Feel. [online] Harvard Business Review.
3. O’Keeffe, G. and Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.