Megan Markle who married into the British Royal Family when she wed Prince Harry on May 19, 2018 has spoken out on her decision to quit social media and how she believes that using social media is ‘like using drugs.’ Harry and Megan followed in one of their royal predecessors’ steps when they made the decision to limit their royal duties and move to North America in January, 2020. Their decision to abdicate has similarities to another royal renouncement that occured in 1937 when Edward V111 gave up his crown to marry Wallis Simpson. Prince Philip was said to be ‘very disappointed’* by Meghans decision not to support the Monarchy. Prince Phillip, 99 abandoned his naval career to support his wife, Queen Elizabeth 11, 94 when she inherited the throne in 1952 and is purportedly ‘aggravated’ that Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, 39 did not make the same sacrifices with her career aspirations for his grandson Prince Harry.
Markle endured what she describes as ‘almost unsurvivable’ online abuse.
During a discussion at Fortune’s virtual Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit Meghan shared that she has ‘a lot of concerns for people that have become obsessed with (social media) and it is so much a part of our daily culture for so many people that it’s an addiction.’ she said. On initiation of Harry and Meghans joint instagram account under the byname Sussex Royal in April 2019, it quickly grew to one million followers becoming the fastest growing account in the platform’s history, but Meghan has spoken out about how she now stays personally distant from social media ‘for my own self preservation’ she said. ‘I had a personal account years ago which I closed down, then we had one through the institution and our office that was in the UK, that wasn’t managed by us, that was a whole team.’ Meghans telling disclosure of suffering ‘almost unsurvivable abuse’ online no doubt played a huge role in her denouncement of social media usage. ‘I have not been on social media for a very long time.’ she acknowledged. ‘I’ve made a personal choice to not have any account – so I don’t know what’s out there and in many ways that ‘s helpful for me.’
Online bullying and harassment not just a Celebrity problem
The constant competition for attention and likes often leads to online bullying on social media platforms. This is more prevalent in teenagers but anyone of any age can be affected. Rumour spreading. intimidation and general bullying has always occurred but before the phenomenon of Social Media this kind of negative behavior was more contained. Now it is possible to use different platforms to spread and share information about others at the push of a button. When this information is derogatory it can lead to devastating results. Cyberbullying has led to an elevated suicide rate among young adults. These kinds of attacks have also contributed to the expansion of higher levels of anxiety and other mental health issues in an ever increasing percentage of Social Media users.
Meghan declared that ‘People who are addicted to drugs are called users and people who are on social media are called users.’
Meghans comparison to this analogy is fundamentally correct. This is essentially the label that we call those who use drugs and those who use social media. (“users” in English denotes both “consumer” and “user”) and people who use Social Media platforms are generally referred to as “users.” The deeper meaning of her correlation is however clear. Meghan is associating Social Media use as a potentially addictive undertaking that in her opinion can be akin to drug addiction. ‘I’m not sure (what’s going on on social media) I worry a lot about people who obsess over it.’ she said. ‘There is very little in this world where you call the person who interacts with a product a “user” And there is something algorithmic that creates this obsession, I think is very unhealthy for a lot of people. So I would say that when you use these platforms for your work, to exchange with your friends, be aware of what you are doing… When you engage in negative things, think about the repercussions that it can have on your person, there really are effects, you have to be aware and responsible.’ Her opinions on Social media are resonant to those expressed by her husband, Prince Harry last year in April 2019 at a mental health conference. ‘Growing up in today’s world, social media is more addictive than drugs and alcohol.’ he expressed. ‘Yet it is more dangerous because it’s normalized and there are no restrictions to it. We are in a mind altering time.’ Prince Harry also took a shot at the popular online game Fortnite that launched in 2017 that is believed to have over 250 million registered players and said he believes it is irresponsible and should be banned. ‘It’s created to addict, an addiction to keep you in front of a computer for as long as possible.’ he said.The couples denouncement of Social Media as an addictive platform is backed up many studies and psychologists estimate that as many as 5 to 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction which is described as a behavioral addiction defined as being driven by an uncontrollable urge to use social media, neglecting and impairing other important facets of life by excessive and unbridled use of social media platforms.
SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED ABOUT THE LONG AND SHORT TERM CONSEQUENCES OF SOCIAL MEDIA USAGE?
The occurrence of social media addiction is largely attributed to the dopamine inducing social environments that social networking sites provide. They aim to produce the same neural circuitry that occurs with gambling and recreational drugs to get people hooked. Studies have consistently proven that the consistent stream of likes, shares and tweets from sites affect the brain’s reward area to trigger the type of chemical reaction as drugs such as cocaine. Neuroscientists have concluded that social media interaction can be compared to a syringe of dopamine being injected straight into the user. Researchers at Michigan State University also concluded that people’s decision making abilities are also diminished when they are consistently on Social Media. For some excessive social media use brings on a condition referred to as social media anxiety disorder which shares similarities with social anxiety disorder. The thought of not being able to check in on their social media accounts causes some people incredible stress bringing on stress symptoms of anxiety and nervousness. Researchers estimate that 20 percent of people with social media accounts are unable to last more than three hours without checking them. Anxiety disorders are already prevalent and the increased use of technology has only made these conditions worse. It seems the more technology people acquire the more stressed they become. Automation including computers and the advent of social media platforms which were made and the ideology sold to us that we would with their use be more connected with people have actually induced an epidemic of isolation and loneliness and had the opposite effect where people feel more companionless than ever. We have increasingly abandoned real life interactions with those from afar which many have come to realize is not comparable. Social media promotes an unrealistic environment where people can filter and edit online versions of themselves to others. It can trigger feelings of unhappiness and dissatisfaction in its constant comparison to others, although it has also been studied that the more people post depictions of a fabulous life, perfect relationship and how happy they are online the less likely it is to be their true life experience. For Megan and Prince Harry the decision to abdicate Social media was another shedding in their quest for a new life and new beginning in the United States.
AN ADVOCATOR FOR A BETTER WORLD
Meghan who is now a producer with her husband, Prince Harry has explained how being a mother has changed her. ‘Everything I do, I do it for Archie.’ she has said in regards to her son who was born on May 6, 2019. ‘It gives you more courage, you feel more concerned about what is happening in the world which our children will inherit. Everyday I wake up wondering how I can make this world a better place for Archie. It is a belief shared by my husband and I.’ she said. Meghan also referred to ‘Megxit in regards to some of the difficult choices she has had to make. ‘It is not easy. Sometimes making the best decisions for yourself and your family may not be the most appreciated by all. My faith is greater than my fear. This must be greater than all the fears that prevent you from taking this step.’ Meghan has also referred to turning her ‘convictions into actions.’ By disengaging herself and her family from Social media she has certainly made a stand for what she believes in and has not been shy about telling the world her views. Although Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have changed course and no longer define themselves with royal duties they have taken on other roles which they believe in and purposefully promote in their well intended civil duties to advocate a better world not only for their son but for all.