Opinion | Kids Under the Sway of Social Media

To the Editor:

Re “Facebook Is Roiled by Furor Over Instagram’s Harms” (Business, Oct. 2):

The Times and many other news outlets are writing about the damaging effect of Facebook’s Instagram on teenage girls. But Facebook is just the most recent version of a problem that has existed long before Facebook.

The entire advertising community is dedicated to making women and girls feel inadequate — so they shop for a thousand things they do not need. If we are going to be concerned about the self-image of teens, and we most certainly should be, we have a lot more than Instagram to worry about.

An additional concern is that Facebook encourages discord and hate through its algorithms. True. But again, what about Fox News and right-wing talk radio and — yes — Trump rallies? Focusing on Facebook misses the big picture. I can’t watch Fox News for more than five minutes without my heart pounding. The sad truth is that discord is stoked from a whole host of sources.

We need the Federal Communications Commission to re-establish its Fairness Doctrine and have it apply to all varieties of media, and we need to take a long look at how the advertising industry has been harming women and girls for decades.

Katherine Cameron
Alameda, Calif.

To the Editor:

In “Instagram Is Adult Entertainment” (column, Sept. 30), Ross Douthat touches on issues my two teenagers face every day. Not only have they fallen under the sway of advertising presented as self-help, they are also being stripped of their own individuality.

When kids too young to have formed a distinct personality and individual interests are flooded with videos from “cool kids,” choices they might have made become dull and questionable.

In the few years since they’ve been exposed to social media, I have watched my now 16- and 18-year-olds lose interest in art, books and nature and serendipitous discoveries through direct observation. Dinnertime conversation is more often a string of TikTok video recaps.

Kate Staples
Copake Falls, N.Y.

To the Editor:

“Kids Don’t Need Facebook,” by Greg Bensinger (Opinion, Oct. 1), focuses on the content of apps aimed at children. But more important than harmful content are all the things children are not doing when they are online: doing homework, running around outside, singing in a choir, playing on a team, connecting with other kids in person.

Regulating the supply of apps designed to attract children is a huge task. We would do better to reduce the demand for these products by working hard to maintain activities and venues where children either choose to be or are required to be and where digital devices are prohibited.

Summer camps have hung tough on this issue, and their campers continue to be willing to trade screen time for the blessings of a summer spent outdoors with other children.

Margaret McGirr
Greenwich, Conn.

To the Editor:

Re “Sights on U.S., Migrants Flood Perilous Jungle” (front page, Oct. 3):

There is an old proverb in Haitian Creole: “Behind the mountains there are more mountains.”

This describes not only the topography of Haiti but also the reality of most Haitians’ lives. Just when one crisis is overcome, several others, even more serious, arise, just like Haiti’s mountains.

So while the journey across the Darién Gap, linking South America to the north, is harrowing, as described in the article, it is just another hurdle in life’s journey. The Haitians will carry on, and will surely not be deterred by the jungle, rivers, poisonous snakes or even a wall at a certain border.

The only thing that will stop them is when they no longer have to flee their homeland just to make it to another day and another mountain to climb.

William G. O’Neill
The writer is a human rights lawyer who has worked in Haiti.

To the Editor:

The arduous, perilous journey some migrants make to reach the U​nited States​ is beyond the experience and even imagination of most Americans. These intrepid people risking life for a better one would bring more to our country than our country would give to them.

Although we may not deserve them, I say, let them in.

Jay Markowitz
Pound Ridge, N​.Y​.​

To the Editor:

“Divorce Can Be an Act of Radical Self-Love,” by Lara Bazelon (Opinion guest essay, Oct. 4), provides us with a textbook essay on the power of ego in modern society.

Radical self-love is, by any definition, ego — what makes “me” feel good and how I can achieve my goals.

I suggest that the truth of a successful relationship — or life — is the exact opposite: radical love. Self-fulfillment in all aspects of one’s life can come from the discovery through the love of another. It is in the binding up with the other as a spiritual singularity, a devotion to your mate in an intimate relationship in which two people can become inseparable and fulfilled.

When that happens, all that other stuff becomes details to be worked out.

Samuel A. Simon
McLean, Va.

To the Editor:

Headline: “Divorce Can Be an Act of Radical Self-Love.”

Correction: “Divorce Can Be Guaranteed by Radical Self-Love.”

Noel K. Anderson
Upland, Calif.
The writer is a Presbyterian pastor.