“Stand Your Butt up Now!”

By Dr. David Laing Dawson

Adulthood and maturity are terms that imply that certain kinds of cognitive function and emotional control have been achieved. A list of these could include:

  • Awareness of one’s emotional state.
  • Ability to acknowledge emotional state/emotional reactions without acting upon them.
  • Awareness of social context and expectations of behaviour within that context.
  • Awareness of probable short and long term consequences of one’s actions.
  • Sequential planning.
  • Ability to stay on task, ignore distractions.
  • Perspective, or the ability to ignore the trivial and unimportant, and focus energy and actions on that which is important.
  • The ability to distinguish these.
  • A somewhat realistic sense of self and position within a social context.

All of this depends on a healthy brain that has developed and matured through both internal biological processes and preparatory input and stimulus through childhood and adolescence.

There is much evidence that social media is disrupting this process, causing anxiety and depression, and lessening the ability to focus, think sequentially, manage emotions, and develop perspective among today’s adolescents.


I am writing about this, albeit in broad strokes, because I wonder if we are seeing the consequences of this now, in adults. Lauren Boebert is 36, George Santos 35, Congressman Mullins 46.

Social media has been with us and dramatically growing since the 1990’s. Screen time for children between 6 and 12 is reported to be as high as 13 hours per day.

Are we now facing the arrival of adults in positions of leadership whose brains have been altered or stunted by a full childhood and adolescence scrolling through social media, their frontal lobes and serotonin and dopamine systems formed and shaped by the immediate trivial pleasures and disappointments of social media content, by the immediate gratification of ringing bells and bright lights, the loss of focus and sequential planning, and the inability to delay gratification?

And do the childhood and adolescent years of immersion in social media, immersion in the ringing of bells, memes, dramatic words and videos that produce surges of dopamine and pleasure, of rage and superiority, of Pavlovian salivation, and that have quelled the development of critical thinking – can they account for the numbers of young people who, upon being fed parts of Osama bin Laden’s letter to America, immediately parrot his judgement and his hatred on Tik Tok?

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