My eighth-grade graduation approached with bountiful excitement on my part. After a year of making slideshows and presenting my case, I was finally permitted to get social media as a graduation gift. I eagerly set up my profiles and followed my friends, basking in the beauty of my newfound internet presence. I viewed social media as an outlet for connectivity with others, keeping up with friends, and sharing my favorite moments. I convinced myself that it would bring me nothing short of happiness. I was blissfully naïve.
Two years later, I look back at this perspective with a sense of sadness. While social media does allow for contact, the spread of important information, and connection across the globe, it is most certainly a danger in disguise. Bright-eyed children, teenagers, and adults alike create profiles with the perception of the innocence of social media platforms. They do not recognize the malicious cyberbullying, competition, and depression that can result from these sites.
As a teenager, my experience with social media has been complicated. After the initial creation of my profile, I felt a rush when I received a new follower or a like. It was a sort of validation I enjoyed. Yet, as time progressed, the rush was replaced with inner feelings of turmoil and insecurity. Scrolling through my feed, I saw countless other teenagers with more followers, likes, or what looked like perfect lives. With every post, I subconsciously compared myself. She’s prettier than me. He has more friends than me. They travel way more than me. Their life is just better in general.
Going out, I often felt the need to document my time with friends on social media. If everyone saw me with friends, they might perceive me as a better, more interesting person. Thus, I took out my phone to take videos and pictures of moments that would have been significantly more special without a screen involved. While I was not doing this all the time, it concerned me that these thoughts crossed my mind and these actions were becoming a habit. Why was I so involved in what others thought of me? Why was I so concerned about my online image?
Unfortunately, I am not alone in these struggles. Around me, social media has infiltrated our lives in an often unhealthy manner. The flicking screens and constant information has shortened teenage attention spans and made thousands, if not millions, addicted. Seeing those around us leading seemingly perfect lives, we can fall into a pit of despair and insecurity about ourselves. It is difficult to remember that social media is often inauthentic and does not accurately portray the struggles we all endure.
I am not labeling social media as entirely evil. Rather, I am trying to highlight its negative effects. There are likely many new social media users like I was in eighth grade who jumped into it with naïveté of its darker side. Recognizing that it is often inauthentic, can become toxic, and should be used in moderation can open the doors to an excellent social media experience. I would suggest taking regular detoxes, remaining positive and kind, and attempting to create an online presence that is an accurate representation of the user’s personality. Use social media to connect with others, follow role models, and receive important information while remaining aware of the danger at hand.
About the Author
Sarah Faz is 16 years old and enjoys writing, learning about the world, and discussing meaningful topics with others.