OPINION: Social Media Is Bad For Teens

By: Lauren Mitchell
Owlfeed News Editor

In my head, it seems like deleting social media is so easy, clicking delete, then continuing on with my life. However, it is way more difficult than it seems. Every time I am asked why I cannot delete Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, etc… I always have a thousand excuses, like “this is how I stay connected to my family far away” or “my friends talk to me on Snapchat not text message.”

I have read a bunch of articles on the damage social media does to teenagers, and I have always ignored them, thinking a little bit of scrolling on Instagram or Facebook won’t hurt. About two months ago I had this huge realization that I spend most my time on social media, so slowly I took away all those apps, and it was difficult at first. I wanted so badly to check my notifications, but now I have way more free time to hang out with friends, read and do what I enjoy.

Now, after two months of slowly decreasing my use of social media, and reflecting on these networks, all those statistics of teenagers feel so real and I know that I am a part of the problem.

“Teens” is referring to 13 to 17-year-olds, but the effects of social media doesn’t exclude those younger or older and doesn’t have an age limit. What is specific about these teens though, is that their brains are growing and they are impressionable, and in turn are being shaped around social media and what they see online. Within this teen range, the most common social medias are Snapchat, Instagram, and Youtube, with Facebook being a website left behind by the new generation, with only 51% of teens using the network compared to the 85% using Youtube, according to www.pewinternet.org.

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There are so many things that social media does to teens and it is insane to think that watching Snapchat stories, watching simple Youtube videos, or liking your friends Instagram posts, all are harmful for your brain. Social media, according to scientists and statistics, is linked to anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, body-image issues, human connection, and so much more.

Have you ever went to scroll through your feed and got that feeling that everyone else’s life is better than yours? In an article by Live Science, they explain a study by the Association for Psychological Science in San Fransisco, who did a test with 500 undergraduate students who actively used social media. With that, they found students would “compare themselves to others they considered ‘better off than me.’”

However, these comparisons to the online lives of people are unrealistic. “People tend to make themselves look better off than they really are [on social media],” said Anthony Robinson, a psychology student at Texas State University, to Live Science. “This is not someone’s ‘real life.’ It is important to recognize that.”

On social media, we tend to post the happiest moments, the ones where to someone else on the other side of the screen, your life may seem perfect, but you could feel the same way about their photos or posts. With that comes body image, at the touch of an app, we can look at these images of what we think we should look like, whether it be of a celebrity, a friend, or a random person who may or may not have used facetune.

I hate to be the one who repeats what we teens have heard a thousand times about how cyberbullying is horrible and real, but sadly it is. According to DoSomething.Org, 70% of students report seeing frequent bullying online and 81% of teens think that bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person. This includes “trolling” or anonymously posting mean comments to provoke someone else, which ⅓ of millennials admit to doing at least once.

In this generation, we can connect with anyone, anywhere, anytime, with social media alone. We have the power to talk to someone that lives 10 miles away or 10,000 miles away at our fingertips. Despite this huge advantage of being more connected through the internet, we have lost connection in our actual day to day human interactions. Stories from parents saying they asked their crush out in person, or going out with friends with no phone, seems weird for this new generation to do.

We would rather DM the people we want to talk to. We would rather stalk their account than ask them about themselves. We would rather message each other than actually call or visit one another. We have become less connected in person, and dependent on communicating online. People could argue they still have face-to-face interaction, but according to studies, teens prefer online interaction, and that is making teens less able to socialize in the real world.

Although I have stated many reasons why social media is bad, I still love Snapchat and it’s cute little filters, I still love Instagram and seeing my friends have fun, and I still love Youtube and watching stupid videos. Social media has its downsides for sure, but they are platforms for influence and inspiration as well. Art, music, talent, and marketing that we can learn from fill these platforms.

A quote by Roxane Gay, an American writer and editor,  is, “Social media is something of a double-edged sword. At its best, social media offers unprecedented opportunities for marginalized people to speak and bring much needed attention to the issues they face. At its worst, social media also offers ‘everyone’ an unprecedented opportunity to share in collective outrage without reflection.”

In all, I don’t think social media should be deleted and be erased from the world, rather we should use it as a platform for good. Use it for inspiration and influence, don’t depend on the likes, retweets, or shares, don’t compare yourself to those you see online, and most of all put your phone down sometimes, go hang out with friends, or take a simple detox from social media from time to time. It’s a great tool for many reasons and in this time, it is even a necessity in some ways, but don’t forget that it is always healthy to unplug in order to reconnect.