22nd September 2023

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Some young Canadians would rather die earlier or not have sex than lose social media, study shows

Windsor Morning7:18Social media survey

A new study released from the University of Windsor asked the question to young adults. What would you sacrifice to stay on social media? The shocking results have been getting a lot of people talking.

A study of 750 Canadians ages 16 to 30 has yielded some shocking results.

It asked the sample group what they would rather give up than social media.

While most would only sacrifice things like alcohol or video games, nearly 10 per cent of respondents said they would accept being unable to have children, give up sex, or forfeit one-year of their life to maintain their social media connections.

A finger plays with apps on a cell phone.
Psychologist says advent of smartphones has fueled a greater dependence on social media. (CBC News)

Five per cent said they’d forfeit five years of life expectancy, and three per cent said they’d gladly die a decade earlier.

Five per cent also said they’d be willing to contract a sexually transmitted infection or be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness like cancer, according to the survey.

Researcher Sarah Woodruff, professor of kinesiology at the human kinetics faculty at the University of Windsor, was part of the team that conducted the survey.

She finds the results scary, and attributes them to people in the age group not remembering a time without social media.

“We were quite shocked, ” said Woodruff. “It just goes to show how engrained social media is in their daily life.”

Sarah Woodruff, professor of Kinesiology at the University of Windsor.
Sarah Woodruff is a professor of kinesiology at the University of Windsor and helped conduct the survey. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The younger the respondent the more they would likely sacrifice to keep their online connections, she added.

“As they get older … they realize that there’s more and more to life than what you what they see online,” she said.

Child psychologist Todd Cunningham from the University of Toronto says what makes the findings troubling to him is how they compare to ones from a larger study of the mental health of young adults.

“And what they found is, the younger you were when you got your first internet enabled device the poorer your current mental health status was,” said Cunningham, adding the advent of smartphones has fueled a greater dependence on social media.

'We need to make sure that [social media] is contributing meaningfully to our lives,' says Horton.
Child psychologist Todd Cunningham says he’s concerned about the impact social media is having on the mental health of young adults. (Shutterstock)

CBC News asked some Gen Zs what they would give up for social media, but most wouldn’t sacrifice too much.

“I’m not too big on social media myself, so I don’t mind giving it up,” said Melena Biniam.

“Social media it’s been … it’s boring,” said 25-year-old Zhane Lockett.

Shaundel Harris, 37, would rather keep social media than sex.

“That’s overrated,” said Harris.

Cunningham recommends parents keep their children away from social media as long as possible. Into their late teens, he suggested.