BY CAMERON CAMMACK
It’s become a natural reflex to scroll, refresh, like, and post our daily occurrences to our public social media feeds as teenagers living in the twenty-first century. Social media and relying on virtual communication is more apparent now more than ever before with the addition of COVID-19 into our daily lives. Although posting your favorite memories onto your accounts can be enjoyable, it can lead to promoting a false narrative that many people may fall for when it comes to celebrities. We constantly see celebrities only post their highlighted moments which could instill an unrealistic standard into their audience’s minds that their lives are always perfect or capturable for an Instagram post.
Being able to showcase key moments, while also remaining real on your experiences and feelings, is essential in order to create an authentic persona with your peers, audience, or people who may look up to you. Something as simple as being realistic in your captions (occasionally) to let your followers know your life has imperfections, as well as theirs, could improve people’s flawed relationship with social media and create a more personal connection with their idol.
Platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok, while they can be a really fun and creative way to produce content, can lead to a dangerous game of comparison. Scrolling through a feed of people’s best photos, moments, and events can have psychological effects on young, impressionable, internet users. According to Newport Academy, a 2018 study showed that 14-17-year-olds who use social media for more than seven hours a day were more than twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression, been treated by a mental health professional, or have taken medication for psychological/ behavioral issues within the past year. It’s especially dangerous for vulnerable individuals due to constant poor self-image and comparison.
While it’s not proven that prolonged social media use can lead to or worsen mental disorders, it is factual that people who may struggle with these disorders use social media more frequently in general. Intaking heavy amounts of media at such a rapid pace can lead to feelings of anxiety, FOMO, sadness, stress, and in extreme circumstances, suicidal thoughts.
A possible solution to the anxiety surrounding the use of social media platforms is a difficult thing to discover, but something such as influencers being transparent with their audience may lead to a healthier social environment for the Internet. An influencer that overall displays this level of transparency is Emma Chamberlain. While she still maintains a high-quality feed of photos, her posts typically contain funny captions, or on the later slides of photos shows a funny, or realistic, photo of her in the photo-environment. In Chamberlain’s podcast, Anything Goes, Episode “I Need to Leave LA,” she discusses the illusion that Instagram photos or perfect feeds can create for the audience. Although this illusion could be fun to create, it can lead to FOMO (fear of missing out) and a decrease in self-esteem due to comparison. Emma hits it home when she highlights her point that everything is not as good as it seems on social media and to remember that people typically only post the best photo or moment.
It tends to be difficult in taking steps to decrease your social media use and take precautions in preserving your mental health and a stable self-esteem. While it’s easy for some to suggest lowered social media use, it can be difficult for social media fiends to log out of their accounts and take a step away from the never-ending feed of information. Things you could do to decrease social media use or burnout are keeping track of how much time you spend on apps, set aside no-technology time, use a screen time app, and more. It’s important to unplug in order to maintain mental health and a comparison-free mindset.
Not only does social media tend to create an unhealthy environment, but because of it, teenagers tend to hold themselves to unrealistic standards in terms of beauty, the quality of your possessions, and your experiences in general. When faced with posts on social media containing experiences you’d like to have, it may cause you to feel like your life is inadequate and you’re not as cool, etc as that person. It’s easy for people to tell you to decrease your social media use without understanding the fact that it’s addicting, people always want to know what’s going on.
“Social media can be positive in that it offers ways to be in touch and provide support for one another, Schwartz said. But, he added, the virtual world can turn ugly — fast.”, Is Social Media Contributing to RIsing Teen Suicide Rate? (NBC)
While there are several negative consequences of frequent social media use, there are upsides, it all depends on moderation. These platforms allow you to stay in touch with your friends from all across the world, find online communities with similar interests to you, promote worthwhile causes, seek/offer emotional support to your peers, find a creative outlet, and discover sources that contain valuable information. There are many benefits when it comes to social media that for some people, outweigh the cons that it may bring along. One societal impact of social media is that it broadens people’s perspectives on current issues, movements, or stories. This was clearly showcased over the course of 2020 with thousands of teens publicizing their support for movements such as Black Lives Matter and the racial injustices the black community faces, encouraging their peers to vote in the presidential election, among many other things.
These things may make social media seem like it is necessary in order to spread awareness on important topics, but of course, involves self-discipline. Yes, it is important to be on the sidelines of essential movements in society but it is also important to take a step back and to make sure you’re still maintaining your mental health. It’s been found that with such rapid-moving information flow, anxiety can increase, especially when surrounded by bad headlines, and chaos amidst the internet.
Overall, frequent social media use requires self-control and moderation in order to maintain a healthy or enjoyable lifestyle. It’s vital for some people to take breaks or try to utilize a different perspective when using specific platforms due to the anxieties surrounding constant-moving feeds. Healthy social media use is a step in the right direction for our generation, considering we’re the ones most absorbed in the internet age. Having a healthy relationship with social media would not only lead to a decrease in self-esteem issues, but it would also allow people to value in-person connections, even more. Healthy social media use is a huge step in maintaining a generally good mental health and more friendly society.