In this day and age, it’s hard not to know what social media is. Ever heard of an iPhone? Or Instagram? These things are the part of technology that countless people of all backgrounds own and use on a daily basis. By far the largest portion of users are teenagers; my generation and the future world-leading generation. And because social media hyper-connects us in every aspect, it boils down to the question so many adolescent users have been asking themselves: Is social media good for me?
I can’t deny that I regularly- almost too regularly- use social media and go on my phone in general. I’m the poster-child for excessive phone use, and if I’m being completely honest, I don’t even like social media that much. However, there’s something about it that urges me to take a quick glance, scroll through a couple photos, and take a look into someone else’s life. I often make excuses saying that it’s to talk to people that I can’t talk to face to face, like my best friend that lives 5,000 miles away, and that is one reason, but it isn’t all. It’s the feeling of being connected to our friends, celebrities, and mutuals. The “knowing” of what’s going on in their lives and feeling somehow apart of theirs. When I finally put my phone down and I realize that an hour has gone past just scrolling through other people’s staged pictures on a little light-up screen, I can’t help but wonder if I’m wasting away my adolescence, if I’m somehow negatively affecting it. After mulling over this thought, it’s clear that it isn’t just me. Countless research is out there geared towards how social media really does affect teen’s self-esteem, social skills, and overall future development.
As said by Amy Slater from Flinders University's school of psychology, "Time spent on social network sites was related to lower self-esteem, body-esteem, sense of identity and higher depression" (Cosima). This idea was reciprocated in a survey done showing that almost half of the girls in question were unhappy with how much they weighed, although 80 percent were already in the "normal weight" zone. People on social media are displayed in front of the public eye, so it is no surprise that they seek affirmation from others, even if it negatively affects their mental health. "They [girls] feel they have to be on display," Social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist stated for the Canberra Times. "We live in a culture that rewards exhibitionism [and] everyone is judged on their physical appearance.”
“Comments on a teens' social media page affects them regardless if it is positive or negative due to the "over-emphasis on appearance", Dr. Amy Slater expressed (Cosima). As much fun it is to go through social media pages, many teenagers don’t realize how much of an effect it can have on their mental health.
A study part of the scholarly journal Computers and Human Behavior was done that found when kids spent five days electronic-free and had to communicate with peers in-person, there was a noticeable difference/incline in their social skills. A group of kids stayed home, with electronics, and there seemed to be no difference in that five-day duration (The Impact of Social Media). It was probably spent sitting curled up on the couch, sucked into a screen with little to no human communication during the day, and definitely then there would be no improvement in their social skills. Human gestures and facial emotions are something that can only be read in person, which social media seems to be taking away from children (The Impact of Social Media).
Due to the countless apps teens have on their phone and countless ways they have to communicate, this also enables them to make a wide range of friends, anywhere in the world (Agrawal). I can say from personal experience that I’m still friends and in touch with people I’ve known for almost a decade, all because of social media. This why I can’t say that social media doesn’t have its benefits, and while this is true, it is the extent of which we use these apps that is alarming.
The introduction of the iPhone and sleeplessness, worry, and dependence in teens go hand in hand. There are literal stats on how much people like you and your appearance when you log onto social media. That being said there was a study done showing that teens who spend 5 hours on electronics (48 percent), could be linked to suicide risk factors like depression and mood disorder (Shafer).
It’s nearly impossible to completely steer clear of social media and technology these days and for a good reason. Our smartphones undeniably have made us as a human race more capable, but it is the excessive rate we are using them at that is alarming and potentially harmful. The impulsivity and obsessiveness that comes with adolescence is what really puts the cherry on top of being on our phones too often. It’s not healthy. And it never will be.
Heightened negative qualities in teens are on the rise ever since social media was introduced. The envy that comes with every scroll through Instagram makes us less connected to our world, and more connected to the one we’re living through the screen. So, to the future leaders of our world, look up and pause; take everything in moderation, right?