Keeping up with the perfect lives of social media might be killing people

Anyone who has spent any time at all posting to Facebook probably knows the reality of living in a fantasy world. Let’s face it: The images we’re uploading, the status updates we’re making, are only a part of our lives. We don’t generally post the other part, and in so doing, we create the illusion of our perfect lives for the benefit of others.

How’d you like to be a person trying to live up to a life as perfect as ours?

This reality is at the heart of the speculation about what is causing a spike in teen suicide, the Associated Press reports today.

The increase seems to parallel the rise in social media. Bullying may be part of it. But it’s also possible we’re part of it with our sharing of the best part of our lives.

“After hours of scrolling through Instagram feeds, I just feel worse about myself because I feel left out,” said Caitlin Hearty, a 17-year-old Littleton, Colorado, high school senior who helped organize an offline campaign last month after several local teen suicides.

Heartbreaking? Absolutely. And part of the reason it is is likely because many of us have felt the same way, and while the researchers of the latest study haven’t established a direct link between suicide and the perfect lives of social media, it sure feels possible.

The study only looked at teenagers in two studies. They were asked about use of electronic devices, social media, print media, television and time spent with friends. Questions about mood included frequency of feeling hopeless and considering or attempting suicide.

Thirty-six percent of all teens reported feeling desperately sad or hopeless, or thinking about, planning or attempting suicide, up from 32 percent in 2009. For girls, the rates were higher — 45 percent in 2015 versus 40 percent in 2009.

The tendency on stories like this is to judge a generation or a technology, but it’s not entirely a new thing.

“When dime-store books came out, when comic books came out, when television came out, when rock and roll first started, people were saying ‘This is the end of the world,’” Dr. Victor Strasburger, a teen medicine specialist at the University of New Mexico, told the AP.

He said parents “don’t get” the danger presented by smartphones and social media. But the reality is few people do. Otherwise, maybe we’d be more honest in depicting our lives.