Pop star — and now movie star — Selena Gomez told a panel at the Cannes Film Festival that she believes social media has been a “terrible” development for her generation, and that social networks are contributing to a decline in mental health among young people.
The New York Daily News reports that Gomez, who is in Cannes, France, promoting the zombie apocalypse horror flick, “The Dead Don’t Die,” which officially opened the festival, told a press conference that social media has destroyed young lives, particularly young girls’ lives.
“It just scares me, that’s all,” Gomez said. “I see these young girls, I’ll meet them in meet-and-greets or something, and they’re just devastated dealing with bullying and not being able to have their own voice.”
“Social media has really been terrible for my generation,” she continued. “It does scare me when you see how exposed that these young girls and young boys are. They’re not really aware of the news or anything going on.”
“I think it’s dangerous for sure. I don’t think people are getting the right information sometimes.”
Gomez is one of social media’s biggest stars with an Instagram audience of around 150 million people. The NYDN reports that Gomez is the third largest Instagram star, behind only soccer legend Cristiano Ronaldo and fellow pop diva, Ariana Grande.
But Selena Gomez has also been very public about her personal struggles with mental illness. Late last year, the former Disney star checked herself into a psychiatric facility in New York so that she could get one-on-one help dealing with anxiety and depression. Gomez also struggles with the auto-immune disease, lupus, and had a kidney transplant in early 2018. Complications from the surgery almost killed her, and the extended recovery time left her weak and scarred.
She also cancelled a concert tour in 2016 to recover from similar mental health issues.
In late 2018, Gomez revealed to Vogue Magazine that part of her therapy involved stepping away from her popular social platforms.
“As much as I am grateful for the voice that social media gives each of us, I am equally grateful to be able to step back and live my life present to the moment I have been given,” she wrote in a statement at the time. “Kindness and encouragement only for a bit! Just remember—negative comments can hurt anybody’s feelings.”
Gomez’s statement in her Cannes panel might reflect the singer’s own anecdotal experiences, but scientific studies seem to back up her theory. A study released in 2017 showed that there has been a dramatic rise in teen suicides since 2011 — a rise, the study suggested, that could be linked to social media use, cyberbullying, and the temptation most social media users have to portray their lives as “perfect” and “Insta-worthy.”
“After hours of scrolling through Instagram feeds, I just feel worse about myself because I feel left out,” one teen told the New York Post at the time.
“No one posts the bad things they’re going through,” said another.
Although the study stopped short of forging a concrete causal link between teen depression and social media, it did note that teens used social media an average of five hours per day, and that nearly 90% of teens spent “significant” time online. Teens who self-reported using social media “every day” or “nearly every day” reported themsleves to be 14% more depressed than those who used social media less frequently.