If ever there was a group of people we’d think wouldn’t have a care in the world, it would be NBA players. Their wealth, talent and fame are beyond what any of us could imagine for ourselves.
But we were reminded recently that, in some not-so-great ways, these towering athletes are just like us.
It was disheartening to learn from NBA commissioner Adam Silver that he’s observed that many of this generation of young men suffer from deep depression and anxiety. One of the culprits: social media.
While acknowledging that social media has helped the league gain exposure and promote players, he said it also contributes to unhealthy comparisons and the general feeling of inadequacy among the league’s players. In other words, they experience a real-time analysis of their performance.
What’s more, he lamented that human interaction and camaraderie have been replaced by headphones, isolation and pervasive feelings of loneliness.
There’s mounting research that links the use of social media to depression, anxiety and lower self-esteem. Whether you’re a superstar athlete, a regular Joe in the neighborhood or a high-school student, your mental health can be negatively affected by a constant feeling of “How’s my life stacking up?” compared to the barrage of happy presented each day.
This newspaper for some time has raised concerns about how social media is changing us as a society and hurting us as a people. We’ve focused on the fact that we are increasingly unwilling to consider ideas that are contrary to our own biases and beliefs. We’re much more eager to tune them out and buy into the divisiveness. Many times, we don’t encounter differing views at all in the stream of information that shows up in our curated feeds.
And we worry that too many of us are enamored with the perfect lives that our neighbors and friends present on social media.
We realize that we’ve all used these platforms in harmless ways to connect with family and share the milestones in our lives. But we also can’t lose sight that they can also have real dire consequences on our well-being.
It’s tempting to dismiss this in privileged athletes, with all the trappings of fame and fortune. But Silver, making the media rounds to discuss this issue, suggests that all the negative feedback these players receive is doing these human beings great harm.
He recounted a worrisome conversation with one player:
“He said to me, ‘From the time I get on the plane to when I show up in the arena for the game, I won’t see a single person.’ There was a deep sadness around him.”
We’re encouraged that the NBA’s players association has launched a new mental health and wellness program to support its players, and that several teams have hired mental health professionals as part of their staffs.
We can all use this as a lesson to seek help ourselves. Data shows that nearly 80 percent of us have a social media profile of some kind. And a big lesson here is that we need to consider hitting the off button on these platforms from time to time.
Editor’s note: Editorials from other newspapers are offered to stimulate debate and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Tribune.