In 2019, 60 Minutes did a piece on a condition known and Amplified Pain Syndrome that was predominately impacting teen girls. The basic outcome of this syndrome is that any touch or physical sensation to the body would be interpreted by the individual’s nervous system as excruciating pain. Such that the simple act of taking a shower, changing clothes, brushing one’s hair, or simply walking was being extrapolated by the brain as debilitating pain.
At first girls with this condition were being dismissed by the medical professionals as not something that required treatment, or the girls were just given pain medication to help subdue the pain. Then as more individuals with this condition found one another online and shared their stories the medical community started taking note. What doctors believed was happening to these girls was that their pain receptors were being over-amplified because they lost an adequate comparison of what real pain felt like. Interestingly enough, the remedy that doctors utilized to cure people of this condition is by pushing the girls through days of physical exurtion such that their brain’s pain receptors can recalibrate back to normal.
Pain like most of our senses is calibrated to our environment. For instance, being in a loud restaurant you may not notice that people are on the verge of yelling just to have a simple conversation. And on the other extreme sit in a completely quite room and the silence can appear deafening.
For the last several years there has been another ailment that has been plaguing teenage girls and that is the effects social media. One of the most prominent voices in this regard has been the New York University Social Psychology Professor, Jonathan Haidt. Several years ago he covered his findings showing how social media has been negatively impacting teenage girls in his book The Coddling of the American Mind.
Recently, there was a series of leaked documents from Facebook showing a similar trend. One item that was released was Facebook’s knowledge about how their products were hurting the well-being of teenage girls. In the Wallstreet Journal expose, it showed that Facebook’s own researchers had documented the psychological dangers that specifically Instagram has especially towards teen girls.
Here is what Facebook’s internal documents had to say: “We [Instagram] make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” and “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.” Internal studies showed that, among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram. In another Facebook presentation that leaked it showed that “30% of teen girls felt Instagram made them feel worse about their bodies.”
These findings are no doubt troubling, but what is more troubling is how people are suggesting to deal with this. The immediate predominant response from government officials, bureaucrats, institutions, and parents is to try to regulate services like Facebook, Instagram, and the like to protect teen girls from such things. But is this the best response?
There are two ways one can protect someone from pain, the first response is to try to eliminate the source of the pain. This makes sense when the pain is something physical like a thorn in a shoe. But this is not necessarily the best response when the pain is something psychological. Consider if the doctors who were treating the teen girls with Amplified Pain Syndrome told their patients to just stop doing the things that were causing them pain. To stop combing their hair, stop walking, changing clothes, brushing their teeth etc. Not only would this not solve their problem it would actually make the situation worse.
The problem is not that there are pictures of people with perfect bodies or lives on Instagram, but the fact that a certain portion of the teenage girl population sees these images and causes them to have thoughts of suicide, self-harm, or inadequacy from viewing such content. If merely seeing the images of the perceived lives of others alone gives someone these kinds of thoughts then their problems are way deeper than just Instagram.
It is estimated that the average 16-24-year-olds spend a median of 3 hours a day on social media. I would assume that the ones who are most negatively impacted by social media probably spend even more time endlessly scrolling than even that. Consider that if a person is spending that much time on social media perhaps that is a bigger problem than the social media.
People who spend that much time on social media will inevitably have a warped sense of reality. Their sense of justice and adequacy will be completely out of balance, and rather than being appreciative for everything that God has given them, all they will dwell on the things they see other people having.
[14:31] Exhort My servants who believed to observe the Contact Prayers (Salat), and to give (to charity) from our provisions to them, secretly and publicly, before a day comes where there is neither trade, nor nepotism. [14:32] GOD is the One who created the heavens and the earth, and He sends down from the sky water to produce all kinds of fruit for your sustenance. He has committed the ships to serve you on the sea in accordance with His command. He has committed the rivers as well to serve you. [14:33] He has committed the sun and the moon in your service, continuously. He has committed the night and the day to serve you. [14:34] And He gives you all kinds of things that you implore Him for. If you count GOD’s blessings, you can never encompass them. Indeed, the human being is transgressing, unappreciative.
We are surrounded by God’s blessings, the problem is when we spend hours of our life in a fictitious world we forget all these blessings that God has bestowed upon us.
[16:18] If you count GOD’s blessings, you cannot possibly encompass them. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful.
وَإِنْ تَعُدُّوا نِعْمَةَ اللَّهِ لَا تُحْصُوهَا إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَغَفُورٌ رَحِيمٌ
So this isn’t just a problem of social media, even if they may share a portion of the responsibility, but the real problem is that people have stopped being appreciative. That is why just like the girls with Amplified Pain Syndrome needed to go to days of BootCamp to recalibrate their pain receptors, I would recommend people who are suffering from social media to spend a few days to do a BootCamp of their own to recalibrate on the infinite reasons they have to be appreciative.
[14:7] Your Lord has decreed: “The more you thank Me, the more I give you.” But if you turn unappreciative, then My retribution is severe.
وَإِذْ تَأَذَّنَ رَبُّكُمْ لَئِنْ شَكَرْتُمْ لَأَزِيدَنَّكُمْ وَلَئِنْ كَفَرْتُمْ إِنَّ عَذَابِي لَشَدِيدٌ
It is the devil’s system to try to make us forget about all of God’s blessings and thus prove his case that the human being is unappreciative of his Lord.
[14:22] And the devil will say, after the judgment had been issued, “GOD has promised you the truthful promise, and I promised you, but I broke my promise. I had no power over you; I simply invited you, and you accepted my invitation. Therefore, do not blame me, and blame only yourselves. My complaining cannot help you, nor can your complaining help me. I have disbelieved in your idolizing me. The transgressors have incurred a painful retribution.”
وَقَالَ الشَّيْطَانُ لَمَّا قُضِيَ الْأَمْرُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَعَدَكُمْ وَعْدَ الْحَقِّ وَوَعَدْتُكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُكُمْ وَمَا كَانَ لِيَ عَلَيْكُمْ مِنْ سُلْطَانٍ إِلَّا أَنْ دَعَوْتُكُمْ فَاسْتَجَبْتُمْ لِي فَلَا تَلُومُونِي وَلُومُوا أَنْفُسَكُمْ مَا أَنَا بِمُصْرِخِكُمْ وَمَا أَنْتُمْ بِمُصْرِخِيَّ إِنِّي كَفَرْتُ بِمَا أَشْرَكْتُمُونِ مِنْ قَبْلُ إِنَّ الظَّالِمِينَ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ أَلِيمٌ
[15:39] He said, “My Lord, since You have willed that I go astray, I will surely entice them on earth; I will send them all astray. [15:40] “Except those among Your worshipers who are devoted absolutely to You alone.” [15:41] He said, “This is a law that is inviolable. [15:42] “You have no power over My servants. You only have power over the strayers who follow you.
[2:268] The devil promises you poverty and commands you to commit evil, while GOD promises you forgiveness from Him and grace. GOD is Bounteous, Omniscient. [2:269] He bestows wisdom upon whomever He chooses, and whoever attains wisdom, has attained a great bounty. Only those who possess intelligence will take heed.
[31:12] We have endowed Luqmãn with wisdom: “You shall be appreciative of GOD.” Whoever is appreciative is appreciative for his own good. As for those who turn unappreciative, GOD is in no need, Praiseworthy.
[10:57] O people, enlightenment has come to you herein from your Lord, and healing for anything that troubles your hearts, and guidance, and mercy for the believers.
يَاأَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جَاءَتْكُمْ مَوْعِظَةٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَشِفَاءٌ لِمَا فِي الصُّدُورِ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ
[17:82] We send down in the Quran healing and mercy for the believers. At the same time, it only increases the wickedness of the transgressors. [17:83] When we bless the human being, he becomes preoccupied and heedless. But when adversity strikes him, he turns despondent. [17:84] Say, “Everyone works in accordance with his belief, and your Lord knows best which ones are guided in the right path.”
People who chase the vanities of this world will be left with nothing but disapointment. God uses the provisions that He has given each person in order to test them to see if they are using it to draw closer to God or only to boost their own egos. If it is the former then it is for their good, but the latter will only lead to ruin.
[28:79] One day, he came out to his people in full splendor. Those who preferred this worldly life said, “Oh, we wish that we possess what Qãroon has attained. Indeed, he is very fortunate.” [28:80] As for those who were blessed with knowledge, they said, “Woe to you, GOD’s recompense is far better for those who believe and lead a righteous life.” None attains this except the steadfast. [28:81] We then caused the earth to swallow him and his mansion. No army could have helped him against GOD; he was not destined to be a winner. [28:82] Those who were envious of him the day before said, “Now we realize that GOD is the One who provides for whomever He chooses from among His servants, and withholds. If it were not for GOD’s grace towards us, He could have caused the earth to swallow us too. We now realize that the disbelievers never succeed.”