Social media’s formal definition is Social media promotes users to share content with others and display content in order to enhance a particular brand or product. Enhancing the communication of kids, helping people connect if they live far away, or don’t see each other outside of school/sports/work. Social media allows people to be creative, share ideas and collaborate with others. There are countless negatives to social media platforms and the effects it has on kids and teens, but there are some positives as well.
Connecting to peers
Having social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram can keep you in the social loop. For example, you can see what your friends are doing (which can be good or bad) but in this case it’s a good thing. Having social media helps you be able to connect with others. If people are talking about a funny video/TikTok they saw, you can interact and relate because you saw it too! It helps you not feel left out with group chats. You are involved with what is going on at school, since now there’s many school Instagram accounts.
Social media has allowed for mass cultural exchange and intercultural communication.
Accepting all ‘types’ of people, and allowing you to reach out to them whether they’re 5 minutes or 5 hours away from you. Kids have also met some best friends through social media (via Instagram or Snapchat) and some even met their significant other via social media! An actor, Madison Bailey, from Netflix show Outer Banks met her girlfriend of over a year now from a TikTok video!
One thing social media has done for kids, is introduced new forms of language as in abbreviations. Kids type abbreviations such as “LOL” which means laugh out loud and many others. It has depicted laziness within kids and children.
Connecting to family
Family wise, it’s very very helpful. For people who don’t live near their family, extended family or immediate family, it’s nice to see what they’re up to. For me, my grandma doesn’t see me very often and she loves seeing my mom’s Facebook posts so she can be kept updated with what we’re doing and what’s going on in our lives! Also, if you have family friends who you don’t see often, seeing their family on Facebook or Instagram keeps you updated on their life as well.
I honestly interpret marketing two different ways, for I believe it has its positives and negatives. To start, being on a platform such as Instagram and promoting an issue that’s important to you or that you feel deserves recognition is a very good way to use social media. Using it to inform people, and to share your opinions is a great thing to do. I feel it starts to get out of hand when people start to bash and downgrade someone’s opinion. An example is when I was on Instagram and I was watching a reel for a show called Outer Banks. This person was talking about her opinions on the new season and what’s going to happen. The comments were filled with hate and saying she’s dumb and all this nonsense, for something as little and insignificant as view about a show. This happens with any issue, big or small.
Marketing can also affect the influencers. People on social media are so cruel, especially to influencers who are just trying to be themselves (I’m not saying all influencers are good and positive, but there’s definitely some who are and I don’t want to pass over them). An example of this that honestly disturbed me, would be when I was on Instagram and I saw a post from actor/singer Olivia Rodrigo. If anyone knows of her, she is insanely talented, beautiful, and seems like a kind and down to earth person. Well, I liked her post and scrolled through the comments and I saw half of them saying “eat a burger”, “you look anorexic”, “skinny legend” and “girl please eat you’re thinner than me at 9”. These are direct comments taken from her post. This shows the toxicity of social media. You never know what someone is going through, and a comment like that could make her develop a mental illness that could be deadly to her.
Effects on school
School is a pretty broad subject, but I’m just going to be generally talking about school (high school). For starters, cyberbullying can occur. Now that we’re back in school full time, if there’s something (true or not) posted about you on social media, you will have to face it in school the next day. Which is horrible for kids’ mental health. Imagine being scared to go to school because you didn’t want to be made fun of. Another thing is college admissions will now check students’ social media accounts before accepting them into their school. 27% of colleges as of 2012 use Google to learn about an applicant, and 26% check Facebook. Students whose social media pages include offensive jokes or photos, racist or homophobic comments, photos depicting the applicant engaging in illegal drug use or drunkenness, and so on, may be screened out from admission process.
Effects on mental health
Social media has a huge negative effect on adolescents’ mental health. For example, there are many site such as pro-anorexia sites and pro-suicide sites, glamorizing and promoting these horrible illnesses. Social media provides information and a considerable amount of uniformed and incorrect sources which promote unhealthy and ultimately live threatening methods of weight loss and diets. Advertising to young teens that if you want to look good like me, don’t eat. It is honestly disturbing. Seeing people who are noticeably in an eating disorder promote and glamorize it to their audience, is unacceptable. As stated by the national eating disorder association there is a high correlation between weight loss content and disorderly eating among women who have been influenced by this negative content.
Having the constant reminder that you don’t look like these influencers who are getting millions of likes and thousands of comments, and who society deems as “perfect” is also hard and stressful on teens. It’s easy to compare ourselves to those we see on social media, because their life seems amazing. The way people portray themselves on their platform is a way that is appropriate to the situation in which they are posting, but also serves their best interests. Oftentimes, the posts are the positive aspects of people’s lives and not the real parts. Self-comparison on social media is hard, and it can have dire effects on physical health as well as mental health. Like stated above, comparing could lead to developing an eating disorder which can be deadly. Body compassions have become more prevalent because the presence of online posts by influencers are constant. People have become more aware of their own body in comparison to others. A study produced by King University showed that 87% of women and 65% of men compared themselves to images found on social media.
The media may portray suicidal behavior or language which can potentially influence people to act on these suicidal tendencies. This may include news reports of actual suicides that have occurred or television shows and films that reenact suicides. This includes pro-suicide sites, suicide pacts and peer pressure. Contributors to these social media platforms may also exert peer pressure and encourage others to take their own lives, idolize those who have killed themselves, and facilitate suicide pacts. These pro-suicidal sites reported the following. For example, on a Japanese message board in 2008, it was shared that people can kill themselves using hydrogen sulfide gas. Shortly after 220 people attempted suicide in this way, and 208 were successful.
There are three emotional effects social media has on adolescents. ‘Facebook depression’, social media burnout, and fear of missing out (FOMO). Using the link below you can learn more about these three terms. I want to touch on FOMO. This affects all kids, but it triggers and forms social anxiety, by checking updates on friends’ activities on social media. It leads to feeling left out and upset if you weren’t invited and you see everyone having fun without you.
Social media platforms used by U.S. kids in 2020 (ages 13–18) and 2017 (ages 10–18)
Platform 2020 2017
YouTube 86% 70%
Instagram 69% 60%
Snapchat 68% 59%
TikTok 47% N/A
Facebook 43% 63%
Twitter 28% 36%
Reddit 14% 6%
There is substantial evidence that the Internet and social media can influence suicide-related behavior. Such evidence includes an increase of exposure to graphic content as well as the opportunity for cyberbullying to occur. Over the past ten years, cyberbullying has increasingly led to self-harm and suicide. An April 2020 study done by The National Center for Health Statistics (NPHC) revealed that suicide is the second leading cause of death of US citizens ages 10–34. Although this study does not directly state the cause of these suicides, it can be alluded that cyberbullying was a potential cause.[weasel words] NPHC had previously done a study in 2018 that showed that adolescents under the age of 25 that were victims of cyberbullying became twice as likely to commit suicide or cause various forms of self harm. Overall, teen suicide rates have increased within the past decade. This is a highly considerable public health problem, having over 40,000 suicide deaths in the United States and nearly one million suicide deaths worldwide occur yearly.
In 2017, Common Sense Media conducted a nationally representative survey of parents of children from birth to age 8 and found that 4% of children at this age used social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, or (now-defunct) Musical.ly “often” or “sometimes.” A different nationally representative survey by Common Sense in 2019 surveyed young Americans ages 8–16 and found that about 31% of children ages 8–12 ever use social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook. In that same survey, when American teens ages 16–18 were asked when they started using social media, 28% said they started to use it before they were 13-years-old. However, the median age of starting to use social media was 14-years-old.
In June 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, a nationally representative survey by Cartoon Network and the Cyberbullying Research Center surveyed Americans tweens (ages 9–12) found that the most popular overall application in the past year was YouTube (67%). (In general, as age increased, the tweens were more likely to have used major social media apps and games.) Similarly, a nationally representative survey by Common Sense Media conducted in 2020 of Americans ages 13–18 found that YouTube was also the most popular social media service (used by 86% of 13- to 18-year-old Americans in the past year).
I have asked my peers a couple questions regarding their opinions on social media.
“My biggest problems with social media is that it can be addictive, it can spread unrealistic ideas about a large number of subjects and it’s too easy to argue with someone who doesn’t agree with you, there isn’t enough respect for others and their ideas.”-unknown source
I asked around 80 people in total for their views. I asked a total of 5 questions and here are the results:
Does social media affect mental health in a good or bad way?
93% stated they believe social media affects mental health in a bad way, while 7% stated they believe social media affects mental health in a good way.
Majority states that it affects mental health in a bad way.
Overall, do you like social media?
58% responded with yes, they do like social media as a whole. 42% responded with no, that they do not like social media at all.
Majority states that social media is generally/overall good.
If you could delete social media and still be connected to your friends, would you?
76% responded yes, I would delete social media if I wouldn’t miss out. 24% stated no, I would not delete social media because I do enjoy it.
Majority states that it would be best to delete social media.
Do you wish you never got social media?
53% responded no, I’m glad I have social media and I don’t wish I never got it. 47% answered yes, I wish I never got it because it’s toxic and I don’t like it.
Majority believes(even though this was a close one) that they don’t regret getting social media.
Overall, is social media good or bad?
70% responded overall, social media is bad. 30% responded overall, social media is good.
Majority believes social media is bad.
Obviously, there are positives and negatives to everything in life. There can always be something to improve on something super good, and there’s always something positive about something not so good. In my opinion however, social media is mainly bad, for it’s a toxic platform and it advocates the wrong issues at times. Even though it is a great way to connect with people, a better mental health is worth more than missing a couple Facebook posts.
How do you think social media is? Do you think this generation can do something to make social media more of a comfortable and non-judgmental community?
Check out these articles!! It touches on the points I talked about and more!!
Lexi is a senior at Sweet Home High School and previously wrote for the Panther Press where she was the editor for the News section for two years. Lexi is now the Opinion section editor of The Panther Eye. She plays volleyball for the Varsity team at Sweet Home.