April 21, 2019

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.

            Five days a week, students across the nation promise their unity and support for the country we live in. For us, it’s at the beginning of second period when announcement starts. The beep from the overhead speakers signals students to stand up from their desks, place their right hand over their heart, and recite the words they’ve known since kindergarten. For most students, this has become part of our daily school routine. We’ve pledged the flag since we were five years old and grew up thinking it was an obligation. But what does it mean to pledge the flag?

             Let’s break it down. A pledge is “a solemn promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something” and allegiance is “loyalty of a citizen to his or her government” according to Dictionary.com. Students from a very young age have promised their loyalty to the flag, which symbolizes our country. Boys and girls have started to pledge themselves to a government that they don’t know or understand at that age. Why has this action become a tradition for over a century and used by schools across the nation?

            Many sources claim that the Pledge of Allegiance engrains patriotism in children from a young age, so it can be carried throughout adulthood. Pledging can also act as a remainder of the country’s winning fight for independence and of the freedom and independence America have. Not only this, but the pledge has been used for generations, therefore people mainly leave the tradition of pledging the flag.

            But this tradition has had some controversy over the years. In the 1954, the words “under God” was added to the pledge, causing many to disagree and call for a secular pledge, which could be used by anyone of any religion. Also, recently, many people have taken the pledge and its meaning into consideration and deciding to stop pledging due to disagreement with our country, thus ending their allegiance. For some, it’s an act of disobedience and dissent for our country, a call for reform and change. For others, they simply don’t understand the meaning of the pledge or don’t care enough to do it.

            There has never been a law stating that students are obligated to rise and pledge allegiance. It is solely up to the student and no one, even staff and teachers, can stop them. From here on now, be conscious of your actions and who you give your word to. You can view this daily act as a tribute to your country’s history, or as a deliberate choice of whether to pledge or not. Either way, you have the power to choose. You don’t have to stick to the agenda of the announcements. Decide for yourself what the pledge of allegiance means to you and whether you stand for it or not.