Social Media and Teens

Social Media and Teens

Adults don’t look at social media from the same perspective as teenagers. Sometimes adults don’t fully understand the apps. Teenagers use social media differently than most might think. They are more than aware of every picture they post and how those images will be received by their peers. How would I know? This is my generation and I am online every single day. So, I’ll try to explain.

Platforms

How do teenagers use Facebook and Twitter? I’ll keep it simple: they really don’t! Facebook is utilized by teens only when necessary, like when their boss or coach makes a group chat for communication purposes. Otherwise, there is no immediate reason to use Facebook. Alternatively, Twitter has a surprising amount of activity from teens. We keep tabs on celebrities, as they like to announce important information on Twitter, and yes, we keep up-to-date on local or international politics. Still, we don’t really tweet our own stuff.

Instagram is different. We use the app to depict those things with which we want to be associated. This defines your online image and your story. When you scroll through someone’s account, you make certain assumptions based off what they choose to share, what they have in their bio, their tags, and the people they follow. If you would like people to see you as a happy person, post pictures with your friends, pictures of flowers, or whatever makes you happy. Do you aspire to be a famous artist? Post pictures of your work, use a few important hashtags, and make sure you interact with other artists online.

There are a few downsides to Instagram. We all have that one embarrassing account that we made years ago that we would love to delete but conveniently we’ve forgotten the password and it’s out there for the whole world to see! The more pressing effects of it, though, would have to be that it causes teenagers to be dissatisfied with their own lives, and leads to lusting after someone or even another lifestyle. There is something depressing about scrolling past your feed and seeing a peer living the life you want and knowing it won’t happen. So, you try to create the illusion that you do in fact have that life. You archive your posts, or start a new feed hoping that no one catches on.

To avoid this all you have to do is not worry about what others think about you. Sounds super-easy, right? Well unfortunately, it isn’t. This creates a lot of pressure on you to live out your illusion and causes high levels of anxiety. Ultimately it takes a lot of self-control to not get carried away. My advice: just remember you are not what you post and you don’t have to post everything. Enjoy life without your phone and take a break from the activities that cause you unnecessary stress. Realize that the life you have is only as good as you make it and no amount of likes on Instagram will make you truly happy. It’s a cool accomplishment, but years down the road, you won’t care about it. Instead, you’ll recall the time you tried out for a team, made it and got to celebrate your wins with your friends.

The Other Platform

Now for the sake of the privacy of teenagers everywhere, there is another social media platform that all teens have, but I will not mention the name. Instead, let’s talk about the positivity it spreads! This app promotes mental health, body positivity, as well as an upbeat outlook on life. Each account automatically arranges a collage layout of posts with a personalized collection of shared images.

Still, all apps have negative side effects. While this particular app can create a portrait of your perfect life, it can also showcase the opposite, where life is hell without the person that you love. In doing so, it makes you crave that connection with another person, and if we don’t get it, we can come to focus on the negative too much. This is an amplification of real-life, and can amplify your anxiety level, too.

Snapchat

Let’s talk about Snapchat. The company has in the range of 150 to 200 million daily active users; in fact, I was last active 25 minutes ago. Teenagers are always active and they ‘snap’ each other as much as possible. This is the result of the producers creating a streak system that forces the users to send a picture to each other every single day in order to achieve the long-awaited ‘100 emoji’ to appear for one day. Any teenager could have from 20 to over 100 streaks, some going on for years. Just think about how many people you’re interacting with in a single day!

Nonetheless, not all friend requests on Snapchat are friendly. The app has a wide variety of users that are spread all across the world and obviously vary in ages. Simply put, you get pictures from people that weren’t meant for you. This causes a lot of anger and emotional interactions between users, which can lead to heated arguments. Those never turn out well and sometimes get blown out of proportion.

Final Thoughts …

Social media has an immense impact on our lives. It may be the foundation to building a better future and we base our lives off it. Example: if you want to support local food, follow farms, restaurants, and food trucks that embrace that philosophy, and make your choices accordingly. People are using social media to get ahead of the game and come up with new ways to promote ideas to the next generation – this way, they hit the ground running with fresh topics that people are passionate about.

Of course, companies know this so they make an Instagram page that is appealing to the younger generation. Celebrities that are relevant to our lives get sponsored to wear or do certain things just because teens are following them online. Suddenly business is booming all because Rihanna wore a flat-brimmed hat or Kanye West designed a white t-shirt and everyone went crazy for it. It truly is a beautiful network that connects people around the world and builds communities with strangers that work together and connect with each other; at the same time, teenagers may want to consider this – does social media make us more independent, or are we actually being subtly manipulated all the time?

Social media is one of the most fascinating things that humans have created. It can be the path to a bright future. For teenagers, though, we may want to make sure that we understand how it all works.

Interview: Matt Mays

Interview: Matt Mays

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