Can social media help young people learn about sexuality?

Can social media help young people learn about sexuality?

MONTPELLIER, France ― During the French Days of Sexology and Sexual Health (JF3S), André Corman, MD, andrologist, sexologist and vice-president of the Postgraduate Interdisciplinary Association of Sexology, showed how the rise of social media led to reconsider paradigms of sexual health.

Transform our lives

Introducing the topic, Corman explained that as actors in sexual health, “we have realized how social media has transformed sexuality in everything from sexual encounters to sexual practices. It has also had a effect on intimacy and sexual health management. , from care to information and education. But we also realized how much it has changed society – the way we live – to the point that many authors see it as an anthropological change. We must evaluate this change, which today renders many of the paradigms that constituted the structure and organization of our intimate and sexual lives obsolete.”

Virtual reality

Our way of life hasn’t changed drastically over the past few decades, but people in the modern world are defined by “their tendency to connect with social media whenever they can”. This new way of connecting seems irresistible, and no part of the human experience can escape its influence. It’s in how we consume, inform, work, move, “hit” someone, entertain, and even how we find pleasure and orgasm. In short, it’s a way of life.

The older generation has also been swept away in its whirlwind, including the most refractory to new technologies. However, “young people are at the heart of this vast change in socialization”, underlined Corman. “They are at the epicenter of this change because they are the first generation to develop in this way.”

A study showed that 20% of elementary school children had a TikTok, Discord, Snapchat, Instagram or other social media account. This proportion rises to 48% for college students and 90% for high school students. According to a French Senate report, the younger generation spends about 800 hours a year in school, 80 hours talking with family and 1500 hours in front of a screen.

Accessible sexual content

On the one hand, social media reduce or eliminate intermediaries, but they also allow access to the world without the mediation of family and school, neither of which maintains a monopoly on socialization. young people.

On the other hand, social networks accelerate the process of “de-traditionalization”, preventing young people from remembering what “life before” was like (i.e. without smartphones or social networks).

“Young people find themselves alone on social media without guidance or benchmarks,” Corman pointed out, “which highlights the importance of educational support.”

Open and unrestricted access to sexual content, access to a wide range of information about sexuality and the ability to consume, exchange or produce pornographic material easily and without a second thought can impact our understanding of sexuality.

“In many cases, this easy access to sexual content of unknown origin can also be positive,” Corman said. “A more optimistic view might be that social media aims to deconstruct sexual stereotypes, allowing individuals to question their own sexuality, encouraging us to explore our sexuality and freeing ourselves from any constraints. Nevertheless, the lack of information clear and scientifically substantiated statements about online sex education can increase the spread of confusion and anxiety about sexuality.”

Where is the privacy going?

Personal information is spread across all social networks, redefining the spaces we live in. “The need to be shameless outweighs the fear of giving up our private and personal space.” Essentially, nothing is private anymore. Social media’s invasion of privacy is a public compilation of “what is unique to me” and a sharing of “what matters to me”.

At a young age, this means constantly alternating between face-to-face socializing and online socializing, with individuals constantly switching between the two.

The consequences for sexual health are endless. For example, when teenagers send each other “private” photos, they are convinced that the photos will remain private. The element of secrecy is what makes it so exciting and is why they share the photos in the first place. Confidentiality refers to the ability to give someone something of your own free will, something you can keep secret and conceal. What these teenagers don’t know is that when they expose themselves, privacy loses its protective power. About 10% of these photos are shared or retransmitted, especially in cases of bullying or revenge porn.

Comfort and control

Selecting photos, videos or personal information worthy of appearing in your “story” is a real work of composition. “It allows us to choose how we present ourselves and how we interact with others we have selected ourselves, in a world that is tailored to us,” Corman explained. “All this contributes to a feeling of comfort online, of mastery of one’s relationship to the world and to others. However, real life does not offer the same comfort. Rather, we are exposed to the unpredictable winds of otherness. cast aside the quirks and uncertainties that make up ordinary human interactions.”

Real relationships offer the opposite of the comfort found online, i.e. “the comfort of being yourself without the other (while still being connected)”. This becomes “embarrassing”, hence the concept of “laziness in love”, developed by the philosopher Vincent Cespedes, with consequences on sexual dysfunctions and, in particular, on desire.

Authoritative information?

Social networks are increasingly used to obtain health information, and young people (90% of 18-24 year olds) trust information found on social networks more than information found by any other medium. This “apomediation” (ie the role the media plays in linking people to information) makes users less dependent on traditional experts and established institutions.

Sexual and reproductive health features prominently in the forums, where testimonials, testimonials and practice-based advice can be found. Étienne Klein, a French physicist and philosopher of science, described this phenomenon. In popular science research, individuals can now choose the online communities that suit them best. In turn, they are partly shaped by the content they constantly consume. As a result, a kind of personalized world is built, an “ideological house” that resonates with them. “Ultimately, large-scale education is the main casualty, as it loses in the face of a competition of interests and an endless struggle of egos,” Corman said.

Analytical skills needed

For Corman, “the immediate importance of social media makes educational support more necessary than ever, and this support should preferably be provided using the same method: social media”. However, the approach must remain scientific and must incorporate a consensus conference as a model.

The second cornerstone is the ability to read, understand and use written information in everyday life. “A person’s ability to process information they may encounter in contemporary media, such as the Internet or social media, with an analytical mind is the most important skill of our time. It is learned, and it’s time for schools to teach this.”

Corman did not disclose any relevant financial relationship.

This article was translated from the French edition of Medscape.

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