At the advent of social media networks such as Facebook or Myspace, their creators likely didn’t foresee what the implications of social media could become. Mark Zuckerberg did create Facebook in college because he saw it as a massive business opportunity, but the social media effects on teens couldn’t have been predicted.
Social Media Connections
Social media has made us more connected than ever, but in certain instances these connections can be sugarcoated, polished, and filtered to portray ourselves how we want others to see us, rather than how we really are. On top of all of this, the incessant access to others’ airbrushed lives can cause feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and many more mental tolls. When considering the effect of social media, you must consider the largest age group to use these platforms: teens.
Four out of five teens use social media, and 70% use it daily, according to Common Sense Media. With a younger audience comes more susceptibility to aspects such as peer pressure, emotional instability, less sense of self, and other factors that make teens less insulated to the dangers that social media may present. Also, do interactions via screens, typing, and pictures make for a generation that is under prepared to communicate?
Social Media Overuse
There have been reported adverse social media effects on teens due to overuse. There have been studies that show links between mental impacts such as depression and anxiety in teens who use social media more often, specifically those who check their socials around 50 to 100 times each day as opposed to just here and there.
However, other studies refute the social media effects on teens on not causing depression, but that a high social media use is a depression indicator. Meaning that when teens are depressed, they spend more time on social media. And many also point out the fact that the internet provides a host of opportunities for real community-building for those who need support in specific areas.
Social Media Detox Support
Teens are able to reach out and find others who are dealing with mental struggles similar to them in a matter of minutes, and without having tough conversations with mom and dad or a physician (although, this is certainly the better option if there’s a face-to-face person who can help and support). However, the caveat is that the availability that social media brings also enhances the ability for teens who engage in unhealthy habits to continue and find encouragement for unhealthy things.
A good example of this is the Pro-ana movement. Founded as an anorexia support group with good intentions, the pro-ana program has now devolved into essentially promoting diets and fasting routines that reflect anorexic tendencies and encourage followers to be as thin as they possibly can.
Where the breakdown occurs on social media among teens is between teen boys and teen girls. Many people when speaking on this topic have quoted Mark Twain in saying “comparison is the thief of joy.” And for many teen girls, that’s all to real when using social media.
Social media has been found to make those who watch others having fun or progressing feel left behind and those who are posting their fun and prosperity feel better when looking down on those who might not have as rich of a lifestyle.
Social Media Pros and Cons
And as the mixed bag of what social media brings to the table continues to empty, you’ll find that many teens report that social media has helped them in some way find themselves. Those who spend time online, specifically in communication of some sort, reportedly had a greater sense of who they were as a person and an individual.
Furthermore, there is an addictive threat to the teens who might be the most vulnerable to fall into the pitfalls of social platforms. Those who work with teens struggling on mental fronts daily report that those who are addicted to social media are often the teens who are struggling with conditions such as stress, anxiety, or trauma. Those who keep their phone use down to a minimum are reportedly happier and more content.
There are clearly good and bad aspects of social media, but when you look closer you might find that there are things that can be done to keep the negative impacts of social media amongst teens to minimum. First, if you have a teen close to you in your life, it’s important to develop a sense of confidence and self-worth in them even before they’re teenagers.
Being confident and secure in themselves and their decisions can insulate teens from feeling left out, from obsessing over comparisons, and from developing unhealthy social media habits. However, developing this sense of self can take time, and it’s unfortunately hard to find a thirteen year old who is completely secure in who they are and what they stand for, which is why social media use should be limited for as long as possible, or kept to a minimum if allowed.
Even adults are susceptible to the bad feelings that social media can bring, and to teens these effects come at a more regular pace. Also, instilling a sense of confidence in the young ones around you can also help to develop a trust between you and them, which can lessen their reliance on social media and the internet to provide outlets to solve their problems and feel like they’re not alone.
It would be great for every teen to have someone who they feel they can talk to when they feel like no one understands what they’re dealing with or if they’re facing something uncomfortable. Although it’s great that social media can provide support in these situations, we also don’t want social media to replace the support of someone you know who can talk to you face-to-face and hold you accountable to get well.
It’s unlikely that social media will ever disappear, and teens are now faced with the difficult situation of managing the pros and cons of social media. Don’t leave it up to them to navigate these waters alone.