Film screening creates discussion on the negative and positive impacts of social media

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Guests speakers at the film screening for the documentary "LIKE" included (from left) the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriffs Station deputies Curiel and Lee, psychologist Dr. Don Grant, Founder and Executive Director of #Halfthestory Larissa May and Malibu High School students Felix and Zoe, answered audiences questions about the negative impacts of social media. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Council of PTSAs held two film screenings and social media events designed to inform, educate and inspire people of all ages to self-regulate social media and technology use and enjoy a balanced and fulfilled life.

The film “LIKE” is an original documentary that explores the impact of social media and the effects of technology on the brain. The goal of the film is to inspire and help people to self-regulate. Social media is a tool and social platforms are a place to connect, share, and care. “LIKE” screens in schools, communities, and theaters around the world as well as to individual devices, making viewing possible from anywhere. Screenings are held in groups and in communities, so everyone has the chance to discuss and ask questions afterwards. 

The PTSA held two screenings, one at Jams Performing Arts Center Studio in Santa Monica and one at the Malibu High School Theatre in Malibu. Around 50 guests attended the Malibu screening.

Guests were able to ask the panelists questions on the film and the negative and positive impacts of social media.

Guests speakers included the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station deputies Curiel and Lee, psychologist Dr. Don Grant, Founder and Executive Director of Half The Story Larissa May, and Malibu High School students Felix and Zoe.

Lee said social media can impact a student’s life in their present and their future.

“We have one student that’s trying to get their scholarship back because of something she posted when she was in middle school that resurfaced again years later,” Lee said. “You should really be careful.”

Curiel said the film was great and said having an open conversation with your kids about drugs is important. 

“That was a great video, it touched on everything, unfortunately it didn’t touch on the dangers of drugs which are also out there,” Curiel said. “But having open communication with our kids and maybe looking into free apps that can help monitor your child’s safety.”

Curiel said limiting screen time is a great avenue to address these problems. 

“That’s another thing that we have to be aware of — more screen time for them is more advertisement,” Curiel said. 

Grant, an internationally award-winning media psychologist, researcher, addiction specialist, and chair of the American Psychological Association is also a certified chemical dependency counselor, nationally certified group facilitator, and clinician/educator trainer. 

He is a board member of ONE on campus, a multi-dimensional campus-based organization support program that is rooted in the power of human connection. They raise awareness and empower students. They seek to inspire and ignite the passion that exists within every young person and heal the hearts of their loved ones.

Grant shared the psychological impacts of social media after the film screening.

“I am not against technology; I have a lot of it, I use it, I love it, I love social media,” Grant said. “Just know that everything that you put up there, you get to create your own autobiography for life, and it will outlast you.”

Grant provided an example of the online disinhibition effect, which is the lack of restraint one feels when communicating online in comparison to communicating in person.

“Behind the screen we are more apt to say things, behave in certain ways that we would never do in real life. Some of it can be great,” Grant said. “If you’re not really confident about talking about it, there are ways that you can use the online disinhibition effect, to test things out that are safely, mindfully, that are great.”

Grant also warned individuals of trolls who will say things behind the screens.

“And adults model the behavior you want to see in your kids,” Grant said. “I want you parents to be really mindful about this, it is a whole new world.”

May said once kids attend their program, they connect teens and college students to opportunities to write op-eds and invited students in the audience to connect with her after the screening. 

“I realized that social media played such a role in my mental being and if we really wanted to address the future of youth mental health, technology had to be a big part of the conversation,” May said. “We believe that in order to get to the root of transformational change, we have to address the component and the role that technology played in that.”

#Halfthestory’s mission is to empower the next generation’s relationship with social media, through advocacy, education, and access to resources for youth. As pro-tech pioneers since 2015, the movement’s members challenge why and how technology impacts our minds. Through cutting-edge science, research, and grassroots organizing, they are leading the movement to make mental health a fundamental right.

“Our vision is to make digital well-being accessible to everyone because we believe that social media and technology is a determinant of public health and participation in society, but like anything else, you have to have the tools to thrive, ” May said. 

Lynne Pedersen, founder of ONE on campus, attended the film screening and said the panel discussion is important to start the conversation and keep it going. 

Dr Don Grant and Lynne Pedersen 1
Award-winning media psychologist Dr. Don Grant (left) and Founder of ONE on campus Lynne Pedersen are shown after the film screening of “LIKE” at Malibu High School on Monday, Feb. 13. Photo by Samantha Bravo/TMT.

“It’s one, one person connecting with another, cannot only alter your life but the lives of those around you,” Pedersen said after the panel discussion. “It just starts with one, one shift, one connection, that’s where we have to begin and it’s powerful.”

Students Felix and Zoe shared their personal experiences with technology and social media and how essential it is to kids in this generation.

“Using Google is easy, and I do think kids need to read a book sometimes, but a kid who doesn’t have a phone is going to struggle, more than someone who does, and not being as socially aware,” Zoe said. 

Mental Health Counseling Coordinator for SMMUSD Shuli Lotan sent out a survey following the event and extended her gratitude to the PTSA. 

“We are so thankful to our district-wide council of PTSAs for generously sponsoring the showing of the film, and thankful to our panelists for their time and expertise,” Lotan said. “We had solid attendance at both events and participants were engaged in the post-film discussions. Clearly this issue of how social media impacts our mental health and overall well being is an important one to consider, for both students and parents alike.”

Lotan provided resources to continue the conversation at home and hopefully make some positive changes to the way that you use social media.

Tips for Managing Social Media

Try these simple changes to live more intentionally with your devices right now. Social media is place where we can connect, a place to share with others, and a place to express our feelings. It can also be a place of self-comparison, constant FOMO, a way to channel addictive tendencies, and overall can be quite harmful for our mental health. We do have a choice when it comes to managing the way we use it. Here are a few tips for leading a balanced lifestyle with the overwhelming presence of social media.

  • Turn off all notifications except from people: Notifications appear in red dots because red is a trigger color that instantly draws our attention. But most notifications are generated by machines, not actual people. Visit Settings > Notifications and turn off all notifications, banners, and badges, except from apps where real people want your attention; e.g. messaging apps like WhatsApp, FB Messenger, Signal, Telegram, WeChat etc.
  • Go Grayscale: Colorful icons give our brains shiny rewards every time we unlock them. Set your phone to grayscale to remove those positive reinforcements. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut (bottom) > Color Filters. This allows you to quickly triple-tap the home button to toggle grayscale on and off, so you keep color when you need it. (iOS)

More resources can be found by visiting https://www.impactful.co/like/resources/videos.