OPINION: The Harms of Social Media

Photo Credit: Instagram.com

Photo Credit: Instagram.com

Everett Taylor, OwlFeed Journalism Opinion Editor

Trembling hands, looking around, seeing all these people staring at you. Sooner or later the days start to blend together. 

This is a small taste of what it can be like in the mind of a teenager, having all these overwhelming thoughts. Much of these insecurities and thoughts are the stresses put on by social media.  

Social media is known for its speedy rates of getting people connected and spreading news fast. In reality for teens, that is not all it does. Social media causes the nervous system to go into a fight or flight mode, which leads to a breakdown in our heads, causing teens to develop mental disorders.

Social media is more harmful to teens, and not as beneficial because it can cause a mass amount of depression, cause teens to develop an eating disorder, and/or can lead to unwanted sexual activity. On the other hand, the networking teens can do is much faster and bigger than ever, but is it really worth the damage to their mental health or their life?

As a whole new generation, we have grown to new technology and social media, using it as a crutch. We use social media as an outlet, trying to connect with others, telling the world our lives, and getting negative feedback as we do it. Globally, social media has caused a mass amount of depression in teens.

“Researchers in Austria found that participants reported lower moods after using Facebook for 20 minutes compared to those who just browsed the internet,” according to lifespan.org.

We use social media as a cover-up of how we really feel. 

“Social Media is fake” is what is said to make ourselves feel better, but the harsh truth is that if we are not up to date on the “trends” or what is new and in, we don’t fit in. Then we fall and fall and keep falling until there is no return. We can’t come back from this deep pit of blackness, of nothingness. And all for what? For a like, for a follow? We do all of this just so we aren’t alone, but we are still the outcasts.

“A study published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior found that people who report using seven or more social media platforms were more than three times as likely as people using 0-2 platforms to have high levels of general anxiety symptoms,” according to lifespan.org.

Thoughts like “are they looking at me,” “what is wrong with me,” “is there something on my face,” “do I look good enough” and the constant “what if’s” — they just sit and eat at you at any moment of the day: at dinner today, in your English class, when you are having fun with your friends, suddenly you’re struck by this anxiety. 

But the worst part is that it not only affects you mentally, but physically as well. The anxiety can cause heart rate increases, loss of breath, feeling weak or tired, nausea, etc.

To excuse social media there are comments like, well not all insecurities come from social media, there are people within our own lives that can make us insecure. For example, family members, peers at school, teachers, or random strangers in our towns and cities.

Let’s be realistic here. In reality, the majority of teens who use social media, whether it be an influencer or just a random person with a minimum following, are all affected by the comments going around about appearances, size, what they do in life, and their daily activities. All of the things that we post and share, somebody will look at that and think “I wish my life was like that,” “They are so much better than me.” Those thoughts only bring us down, but we can not seem to stop them at all.

One of the biggest groups noticed in society is women. With such a huge light on them, they feel the need to try so hard to be perfect, and once they have reached that. There needs to be more, they can always do better, look better, be better. That is how they think which means they can look the best too, leading to teens developing eating disorders.

“Internal research by the social media giant found that Instagram worsened body image issues for one in three teenage girls,” according to publichealth.columbia.edu.

Girls learn from a young age that we must look pretty, be thin, modest, and look young. Now we are being pushed to a breaking point, where not only is it already ingrained in girls to have this mentality, but now we have so many social media influencers to look at and compare ourselves to. Looking at them and thinking this is what we should look like, this is what we should be doing.

“The media puts a large amount of pressure on females to meet a certain social and cultural standard of beauty, which can inevitably lead to poor body image and eating disorders. The more an individual is exposed to this unrealistic standard, the more they find it is reflective of how they should look,” according to meadowsranch.com.

Women’s image has been everything in America. Since the beginning of our founding women has been seen in a certain light to have to be modest and beautiful without exception. They had to look a certain way to be found appealing and be accepted.

Most men, and even some older women, say that girls don’t have to do that anymore or it’s not society’s fault that girls and women pushed themselves so far to look a certain way. 

But let’s not forget that it has been ingrained in girls to do this to themselves for so long. And with social media, there are so many models and influencers who look super thin and small or have certain body shapes that are seen as what everyone should look like or what everyone wants. And some people on the internet give very unhealthy advice and habits of ways to lose weight.

Most social media have changed their age requirement to 16 years old, some 14 or even 15 years old, but there are so many children who still use and go on these social media, from as young as 6 to 13 years old. This all can lead to kids talking to random people on the internet. They are young minds, still unsure if they can or can not trust someone, they do not know. This is how many kids of any age can be sexually violated.

“Claude Mellins, a professor of medical psychology in the Departments of Psychiatry and Sociomedical Sciences, studies wellbeing among college and graduate students…She co-led the SHIFT research study to reduce sexual violence among undergraduates. Both use social media,” according to bbc.com.

There is a large, LARGE, amount of teenagers and even preteens who are sexually groomed by either other teens or young adults on social media. Social media is one of the biggest things that adults can have access to so many young people, minors, to give them false hope and information to receive explicit things from these minors. 

According to Firstnews.co, signs of being groomed include: “Being secretive or avoidant when asked about where they are going or who they are speaking to. Having new clothes, items or money that they can’t explain to you. Having access to drugs or alcohol. Changes in behavior or personality.”  

“Grooming allows offenders to slowly overcome natural boundaries long before sexual abuse occurs,” according to d2l.org. On the surface, grooming a child can look like a close relationship between the offending adult, the targeted child, and (potentially) the child’s caregivers.” 

The idea of a child, or even your child being groomed can be the scariest thing ever. No matter how much we try to avoid it, it can be almost impossible because so many young teens and pre-teens are on social media, and there are a lot of adults who will go out of their way to get many provocative and explicit things from these teens and preteens.

One of the biggest things you’ll hear to avoid this is that parents can monitor their children’s social media, and social media is made for people of certain ages and many companies will go out of their way to delete accounts of children under the age of the requirement.

But let’s be realistic here, even if parents did check their children’s social media often, many teens learn how to hide stuff on their social media accounts. And there are so many bypasses when it comes to age requirements on social media — for example, lying about your age when you put it in the social media account.

It’s not that we shouldn’t have social media, but we should work on ways to make it better. That way it’s a safer place and community for teens and even future generations that are going to be using these platforms to feel safe and better about themselves. 

As teens we should come up with ways to make it better ourselves. Let’s do that for us, for others, and for future generations.