Social Media and How It Affects Teenagers


New York Times Graph

The Graph is presenting what problems social media causes teenagers to experience. It is happening in the majority of our society today.

Social media. Our first thought is time consuming, gossip, and for some even an obsession. But people have mixed feelings about it. Teenagers think it’s dope and fun, while parents and mentors seem to have an idea that if used properly it would be helpful but if misused it can become dangerous.

In past decades social media existed, and was designed for people to communicate or spread knowledgeable information. But in our world today, a lot of people in our society use social media as an escape from reality, especially young individuals. But with it grew a negative through the increase in depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts.

So how does it affect teenagers? How is social media viewed as a harm to those teenagers constantly using them?

Well, there are a massive number of reasons and it’s consistently growing. Some of them are present in school, at home, and in every surrounding environment. Middle School and High School students tend to experience these things more often than any age group. Starting with being distracted, disrupting their sleep, short attention spans, exposing themselves to more massive amounts of bullying, rumor spreading/ gossip, unrealistic views, and disturbing content.

Thousands and thousands of social media employees, and social media designers even talk about how they intended to use social media, and how consumed they were by it.

“It’s easy today to lose sight of the fact that these tools actually have created some wonderful things in the world. They’ve reunited lost family members. They’ve found organ donors. I mean, there were meaningful systemic changes happening around the world because of these platforms that were positive! I think we were naive about the flip side of that coin”, states Tim Kendall, a technology icon, in the documentary on Netflix called “Social Dilemma”.

Tim Kendall alludes to the fact that we are ignoring all factors of social media having an extremely dark and terrifying part to it.

Social media has been proved to be the biggest source of loneliness and unrealistic standards. The interactions and critiques people give through their likes and comments, shares and reposts. It indicates how much someone cares and doesn’t care for you. We are in a vicious cycle of hurting and because we hurt we aren’t able to be there for others.

“We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection because we get rewarded in these short term signals: hearts, likes, thumbs up and we conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth. And instead, what it is is fake brittle popularity that’s short term and that leaves you even more, and admit it, vacant and empty before you did it. Because that enforces you into a vicious cycle where you’re like what’s the next thing that I need to do now, because I need it back. Think about that compounded by two billion people and then think about how then people react to them to the perceptions of others”, states Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital.

So is social media a tool or a drug? Is there manipulation present or not? What environment is it being used in?

“If something is a tool, it genuinely is just sitting there waiting patiently. If something is not a tool it’s demanding things from you. It’s seducing you. It’s manipulating you. It wants things from you. And we’ve moved away from having a tools-based technology environment to an addiction- and manipulation- based tech environment. Social media isn’t a tool that’s just waiting to be used. It has its own goals and its own means of pursuing them by using your psychology against you”, states Tristan Harris— a former Google designer and the closest main character of the documentary “Social Dilemma”.

Tristan Harris talks about how there is a difference between a tool and our phones and how over the decades phones changed from being tools, to being a distraction for teenagers today. Same applies for social media; how it used to be a tool based environment, and now has become a manipulation based environment. It has gotten out of control in a way, and as he said “demanding” and “manipulating” people from our society today.

Ultimately, social media may have the surface look of being harmless, but truthfully, it is being misused in our society today, and is a danger to all of our young minds in this world. Which is why parents and mentors have this idea that if social media is being properly used it can become a safe environment again. As for the teenagers, they surely need to learn to be safe and what is appropriate to do on social media.