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Half The Story

Larissa May
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Penna Dexternever miss viewpoints

Here’s the story of a young woman who became acutely aware of the relationship between social media and teen mental illness and is doing something important about it.

The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets describe her as a digital-wellness advocate. 

Larissa May, age 29, is Founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit called Half the Story. The organization’s founding concept is: “Social media is only half the story. We only share one part of ourselves on the internet.” This can be destabilizing, and worse.

Social scientist Jonathan Haidt has the data to prove the connection between social media and the rise in teen anxiety and depression.

In his new book, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing An Epidemic of Mental Illness,” he highlights the teen mental health epidemic’s sudden onset. It occurred in 2012, the year Facebook bought Instagram. Instagram was founded in 2010, the same year Apple released the I-phone 4, the first smartphone with a front-facing camera.

Teens worldwide were drawn in, with girls spending hours “trying to perfect their Instagram profiles while scrolling through even-more-perfect profiles of other teens.”

Larissa says, “When I was a sophomore in college, I hit the darkest period of my life.” She says she was spending 10-12 hours per day on social media, ”which is not as uncommon as you might think.” She became depressed, anxious, and even considered suicide. Instead, in her senior year, as a class project, she started Half the Story.

She now educates middle through high schoolers “about the emotional skills that you need to thrive in the digital media.” She tells them, “If you aren’t in touch with your emotions, you’re not going to be able to control your digital habits.”

Larissa has developed a curriculum for educators called Social Media U plus an 8-week course for students. She also advocates for policy changes to limit online dangers.

She’s not waiting for tech companies but is actively shaping the future of the internet.penna's vp small

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