Collin Kartchner Speaks about Mental Health and the Dangers of Social Media

Social media activist and videographer Collin Kartchner spoke in Friday’s forum about the dangers of social media use, especially among teenagers, and how users can instead use it for good.

“I believe we can save social media,” Kartchner said. “The adults are not going to fix it; it’s going to be your generation who fixes this.”

Kartchner began by sharing statistics that link social media usage to mental health challenges. “I can’t even keep up with the research coming out every single day, sounding the alarms that no one’s screaming. The amount of time young people spend on social media is directly tied to this rise in anxiety and depression,” he said.

According to Kartchner, while spending one half to one hour on social media has minimal effects on someone’s emotional health, spending three to five hours a day results in a 30 percent increase in suicide ideation, and spending over five hours results in a 71 percent increase. He then revealed that the average time that members of the iGeneration spend on social media is nine hours per day.

Kartchner explained that the core of his purpose in speaking to Southern Virginia students was to help bring back the “self-love you gave away to a stupid machine.”

“My research comes from talking to thousands of teenagers,” he said. “They use me as their voice to share with the world what they’re going through.” Kartchner said he receives anywhere from two to 700 direct messages on Instagram each day.

To illustrate how to use social media for good, Kartchner shared his experience of raising money for Hurricane Harvey victims. Disappointed that Instagram influencers were using the disaster to promote and sell products, Kartchner used his platform to fundraise for those affected by the hurricane. He ended up raising $125,000 and flew to Texas to personally give the funds to those in need.

He presented a list that outlined actions young people commonly take that contribute to their feeling unsatisfied with their lives, titled, “How to Be Miserable.” The list included “comparing and despairing” as we view retouched photos on social media, failing to have real life communication, and constantly worrying about “FOMO,” or fear of missing out.

Subsequently, he told students that what they needed in actuality was more human connection and far more hugs. To the surprise of the students, Kartchner had everyone stand up and hug someone next to them for eight seconds. Laughter erupted in the Knight Arena as students and faculty proceeded to embrace each other.

In closing, Kartchner invited all students to clean out Instagram accounts they follow as if they would clean out their closet. “I want you to go through every single one and ask yourself ‘Does this account make me happy?’ If the answer is no, I want you to cut them out of your life.”

Out of the thousands of people who have accepted this invitation, Kartchner promised, “The number one response that they tell me is, ‘I feel free.’”