Maclaine Willett, Editor in Chief
In the past, when real conversations were valued at a higher regard, rather than texting using three-letter abbreviations as a form of communication, times were simpler. When the number of likes on a social media post was not an everyday worry added onto a teen’s plate, who is already burdened with a multitude of stresses, times were simpler. Before innocent, insecure eyes could glance at another person’s post and think less of themselves, comparing themselves to a single, pre-edited picture, times were much simpler.
What I am getting at here is that although there are some benefits when it comes to the use of social media, like connecting with others virtually, the negatives do outweigh the positives. And like any issue up for debate, there are some truths to the other side of this argument. I live by these truths everyday, considering I indulge in social media just as much as the next teenager. I enjoy watching relatable Tik Toks as entertainment, or seeing friends’ posts on Instagram for birthdays and sports seasons, or even hilarious and embarrassing videos posted onto Snapchat stories. All of these aspects of social media add a great touch to society as a whole, allowing us to expand our social network beyond the people we see everyday in school or at extracurricular activities.
However, I think one of the main reasons that I continue to use social media so heavily, and shamefully, is that everyone else is doing it too. I wouldn’t want to distance myself from friends and peers by stepping aside from these platforms—yet I think it is necessary that I, and anyone else on social media, should consider stepping back a bit, and taking into account the many negatives.
As if bullying in person didn’t happen at high enough rates to ruin school experiences for the unfortunate victims already, cyberbullying has entered the picture as a clear downside to the social media realm. When placed behind a screen, away from the threat of being in a physical altercation with someone, people online become much more honest with their opinions. Too honest. Although it doesn’t happen as much to those with fewer followers, considering most followers are friends; take a look at the comments next time you are scrolling through any one of the social media platforms you use. If the social media creator or user were to post a picture or video, it is almost guaranteed that you are to find an ample amount of hate comments. Comments on body image, style, the post itself, you name it. Is this negativity really worth the virtual notification that some random person online liked your post?
One of my personal, and biggest, pet peeves is when I try to start a conversation with someone and they continue to stare at their phone screen, making sure they don’t miss whatever is so important online. I wish I knew what it felt like to live in times where people actually talked to each other, rather than considering texting as talking. This “talking” is not face-to-face, lacking readable body language, and is therefore not a real conversation. The fact that society as a whole relies on social media as the way to keep in touch with someone, or consider someone a “friend” just because one follows this person on Instagram, is baffling.
Yes, being able to use text messaging to get in touch and make plans with friends is a great asset in society today, but this can come without social media apps. These apps are added components of technology that just don’t serve a very necessary purpose. Why take the time to whip out your phone during a hilarious moment where your friend just fell down a flight of stairs or dropped a cup of hot coffee just to post it on social media when you could just enjoy the moment without staring at it through a screen? Moments like these, face-to-face, should be valued and not spoiled by the need to take a picture or video. Are there moments where pictures and videos are very valuable for the sake of looking back on memories? Yes, very. But not everything needs to be posted and shared, and maybe not every moment needs to be interrupted with the presence of an iPhone camera.
One thing social media is great at is creating unrealistic, ridiculous standards and expectations for users, specifically teens. When Photoshop and other editing tools are available to anyone using these platforms, an authentic and candid picture can be turned into a version of the person, which is unnatural and yet seen as “perfection.” I am sure almost every teenager on social media has looked at a post from another user, probably a celebrity, and has experienced a wave of insecurity about their own self.
Comparison is a disease that metastasizes quite easily in the social media world, contagiously spreading with every post. Victims of this disease continuously see posts from others and think of themselves as lesser just because they believe their physical being is not as attractive or worthy as the person on the screen. Social media creates a unique breeding ground for this self-harassment. These teenagers are now more uncomfortable in their own skin, wishing to conform to the looks of those who get the most likes on Instagram or the most complimentary comments on Tik Tok. News flash: not everyone looks the same and not everyone should! Social media makes it very difficult for insecure and vulnerable teenagers to look past their insecurities when others that lack these characteristics pop up on every app on their phone.
Do I think that all social media should be erased from society forever? No. Do I think that social media usage should be monitored and lessened, and that times without social media were much easier on the mental health of teens in particular? Yes.
I think if we all choose to communicate when necessary through these apps, indulge occasionally when extremely bored, but overall try to steer clear of an over-usage of social media, the world would be a happier place. Current negativities would not be as apparent, and this issue in society today would be manageable. While having social media platforms available for the benefits they provide, travelling back to a time when actual human interaction was valued and normal is what society needs, especially now. The toxicity of social media is not worth the fame and fortune, or the likes and comments.