By MAGGIE SNAVELY and MIRIAM YORDANOS
Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook are only a few of the many social media platforms teens spend the majority of their time on. In 2018, Pew Research Center found that 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 45 percent are online “almost constantly.” With the amount of access that they have, teenagers can easily let social media heavily dictate their lives as they begin to live more online than in the present. Social media can be a great way to communicate and share fun times with your friends, but, like everything else, it has its downsides.
With social media, teens’ ability to easily text, video chat and call has only strengthened pre-existing friendships. Delia Davis, a freshman at Redlands East Valley High School, stated that social media “helps me connect and communicate with my friends.” Even when you are unable to physically communicate with your friends, social media bridges the gap.
Due to this universal reach, anyone across the world can access a form of social media and interact with others on a global scale. Social media allows anyone to share their interests, ideas, and thoughts on almost anything! This freedom of expression is especially crucial for teens who do not feel comfortable enough to share their feelings with people in their daily lives. Pew Research Center found that “among teens, sixty-eight percent have received support on social media during challenges or tough times.” Although teenagers might have a support system offline, they still might not feel safe to share their problems to their loved ones due to them being afraid that they will be disappointed or ashamed of them. Social media gives teens the opportunity to express their emotions without fear of shame, guilt or disappointment. Through sharing these innermost thoughts, it is easy to find like-minded individuals and potentially new friendships.
The sheer amount of ideas, interests, and thoughts constantly posted and shared on social media makes these platforms a great past time. On Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, the scrolling is endless, and posts could be about people’s lives, memes, worldwide news and so much more. Amid this diversity of posts, an individual can be made to feel a variety of emotions, ranging from cheerful to gloomy. Even though it is easy to run across posts leading to emotions of sadness, there is so much positivity on social media through posts and comments.
As we all know that simple positivity can brighten someone’s day offline, the same applies online. On most social media networks, friends are able to show their appreciation and support for one another by commenting and liking each other’s posts. Although people can be negative with their comments, many likes and positive comments can still boost someone’s self-esteem or mood.
Some people look forward to the way that social media can boost confidence, but it can simultaneously do the complete opposite. Anna Pembrey, a writer for Psyche magazine, reminds us that as we scroll through social media we compare ourselves to other people with thoughts consisting of “Why aren’t I there yet?” or “Why can’t I be that happy/beautiful?” When people post snippets of their lives for everyone to see, they are only showing the half of their life they want the viewer to see. Constant exposure to all the perfect moments of another’s life can start to make the viewer feel less confident and wish for these idealized lifestyles seen only online. When comparing one’s own amount of followers or likes to someone relatively more popular, the constant disappointment can cause self-esteem to suffer.
Despite it being common knowledge how much privacy is lost through social media, it is still frequently overlooked. With all of today’s technology, people can message, call or follow almost anyone by simply searching their first and last name. On this note, Pew Research Center asserts that “being in control of who can get information about us is ‘very important’ to seventy-four percent of Americans.” Moreover, Manoush Zomorodi, a writer for Time Magazine, addresses the irony of Americans quickly scrolling through terms of agreement and just clicking “agree” then later worrying where their information is going by citing security technologist and cryptographer, Bruce Schneier, who compares walking around with a smartphone to “carrying a tracking device 24/7.” When we have to enter an email, phone number, address or password, that information all goes somewhere; the question becomes where is all that personal information going?
Though social media is great for building friendships and meeting new people, it is also notorious for souring friendships and weakening people skills. Healthline, a respected health information publisher, reminds us that, although “there’s a capacity for friendships, even online,” concentrating online all the time can ruin true friendships offline. People can spend so much time worrying about their reputation that they begin to forget about the people sitting right next to them. It may be beneficial to have a few close online friends, but it also highly debatable how close one can get to someone through just online communication. When all we have to do is press a “follow” button to become someone’s “friend,” is it truly friendship?
Social media is a significant part of our lives in this day and age, and its presence is ubiquitous in every corner of the world. Although it can be a great source of entertainment, a level of caution must also be exercised. Social media has the power to spread both positivity as well as negativity, thus it is crucial to use it responsibly. We must remember to use social media in moderation to reap all its benefits while hopefully avoiding all its negative aspects.