Social Media: Blessing or Curse?
In our generation today, teens are experts at keeping themselves busy after school, as well as the hours way past bedtime. Whether it’s texting, scrolling, sharing, liking, or stalking on their favorite social media platform, teens are more prone to feelings of isolation and withdrawal from personal connections and relationships due to hours on social media. Studies have shown that increased use of social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are associated with the significant rise in depression, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.
Throughout the 21st century, social media has been an integral part of our generation’s youth as long as we can remember. Social media platforms have become a vital outlet for teenagers and peers to share their thoughts and ideas online. The ability to express our interests and ideas in a platform where people of similar age groups could relate to and connect is essential for a growing teen as it’s what you call their self-expression. Although social media platforms have improved our lives through the efficiency of staying current with the news and easily connecting with family and friends online, these platforms have also proved their faults and defects.
As teenagers grow up, they are easily influenced by others as they start to become aware of the social environment around them and how they strive to feel accepted and valued by their friends, which could result in negative peer influence and societal pressures. Studies have concluded that negative peer influence and societal pressures have been significantly rising in social media use through teenagers and young adults. For instance, a teenage girl could be scrolling through her Instagram and come across a post of another girl, her age, flaunting her perfect summer body while holding hands with her cute boyfriend. This kind of situation can create an idealized perception of what one’s body should look like and create unrealistic expectations of a teenage girl’s idea of the “perfect” life.
As a result, teenagers start to have idealistic goals and standards that can negatively affect themselves, both physically and mentally. Having an internal struggle with who we appear to be online vs. who we are can be frustrating. Scrolling through your feed and seeing how other’s lives seem so great only adds to the pressure of trying to live a life full of misconceptions and unrealistic standards. Teens may take it to extremes to achieve their goals, in the hopes of living their “perfect” life, resulting in mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, as well as food disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
Another important issue in social media platforms is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is the act of intentionally bullying, harassing, threatening, or humiliating a person online. Various examples of cyberbullying would be spreading false or private information, sending a threatening message, or posting spiteful and malicious comments or stories. Cyberbullying serves a purpose to inflict harm and distress on a specific victim. Victims of cyberbullying suffer from long-lasting, serious effects on their mental health, and wellbeing due to the constant state of fear or anxiety from cyberbullies. Worrying effects on victims of cyberbullying can include mental health disorders ranging from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem to suicidal thoughts.
Social media can either be a blessing or a curse, yet in this generation, it’s both. The power that our social media holds on us is not in some app developer or your friends who seem to have it all but in ourselves. Social media can influence us in many ways, both positively and negatively, but it’s all up to our choice on how to use it responsibly. As an online community, we should be able to create a balance between our online and personal life. Taking the time to connect and develop relationships with our loved ones and friends offline. Along with changing our focus from negative feelings online to optimistic, hopeful thoughts can go a long way in the future. By doing so, it will help us be more mindful of what is genuine and valuable to us. How we use our social media can change our outlook and perspectives of others, and, importantly, how we see ourselves for who we truly are.