The 21st century has brought upon mass innovation and progression towards a modern society. One of the most prominent advancements in communications is social media. The internet has come a long way since the first recognizable form of social media in 1997. Now, central apps like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have consumed the lives of millennials and middle-aged people alike. The lives of today’s youth have been transformed by the exciting technology they were born with— however, it is doing them a great disservice. By contributing to an already low self-esteem and insecurity, the excessive and dependent use of social media negatively affects the mental health of children and teenagers.
To take a break from their busy lives, most teens turn to this rapidly-growing form of communication. As Bailey Parnell (2017) reported, the average time spent on social media is 2 hours a day. However, this so-called “stress reliever” is actually harming today’s youth more than it is helping. There has been a link between “social media and depression, anxiety, sleep problems, eating issues, and increased suicide risk” (Fact Check: How does social media affect your mental health?, 2019). The dependency on social media has a profound effect on the mindset of teenagers, and has created a widespread amount of issues when it comes to identity and self-esteem (Ehmek, Social Media Effects on Teens). Social apps like Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat make it unbearably easy to compare one’s life to that of another. Most teenagers are one scroll away from discovering something that damages their self-esteem, asking questions such as “Why don’t I look like them?” or “Why don’t I have that many followers?” Social media is the pinnacle of self-evaluation– and the results aren’t typically in good favor. Teenagers rely on what the Child Mind Institute (Ehmke, Social Media Effects on Teens) dubs “peer acceptance.” “Kids today are getting actual polling data on how much people like them or their appearance” CMI explains. All of these modes of comparison attribute to low self-esteem, which is proven to develop into illnesses such as depression and anxiety.
Social media has become a substitution for interaction. This furthers the isolation and anxiety that teenagers feel and are desperately trying to escape. The emotions and state of mind emerged from the constant use of social media is all part of a cascading problem. “[Teenagers] will grow up to be adults who are anxious about our species’ primary means of communication—talking” says Ehmke of Child Mind Institute. By focusing on indirect and implied means of communication, teenagers are sacrificing social skill. Hiding behind a phone or computer increases the anxiety of dealing with real life situations where public speaking is required (Ehmke, Social Media Effects on Teens). Social media can sometimes seem like a full-time job, filled with status updates and and specifics on everybody’s daily life. “Kids feel hyper connected to each other” explains Ehmke. Waiting for responses and not getting them can greatly harm your self esteem, and add to that feeling of rejection or abandonment.
Next time you spend hours and hours on your cellphone watching videos or tweeting, ask yourself if it is positively helping your mood. I encourage you to get out there and do some socializing, as we could all use a break from our online lives.