By: Paige Greely
Out of all the generations, millennials and generation Z are the most accustomed to technology. They seem to always be on their devices, either for school, work or personal reasons. A major part of most people’s lives is social media. It is a way that we communicate with our friends and family, close and far. Or with future and present employers, teachers and students.
No matter one’s outlook on social media, it is almost impossible to get away from it. Especially the younger generations, who not only grow up with peer pressure at school, but in their homes on the computer screens as well.
This ability to interact socially online makes talking and sharing photos with friends simple and fun, however the constant immersion in a social circle draws its concerns. Before social media, kids and teens would come home from school, where they were comfortable and loved, finish their homework, play outside and then go to bed and repeat. Telephone calls to friends were a privilege if you had done your chores, and Saturdays were the time to go to boy-girl parties and sleepovers.
But now that has changed. Starting from when the millennials were growing up, kids have begun to make social media profiles as young as the age of 12. These profiles range from Club Penguin and Myspace, to Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, allowing kids and teens to know what their peers are doing at all hours of the day.
At a young age, one is trying to figure out who they are and what they believe in. They also are beginning to compare themselves to one another. Home should be a safe zone; where they can relax and act true to yourself around people who love you.
But with a computer in every household thanks to Macintosh, this safety zone is no longer a place for teens to grow without peer pressure. This pressure to constantly be outdoing your peers on the social front has begun showing serious long-term effects on users’ self-esteem.
Pediatric doctors Gwenn O’Keeffe and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson found that the effects of putting too much time and energy toward social networking “can cause profound psychosocial outcomes including depression, anxiety, severe isolation, and, tragically, suicide.”
Social media sites allow for a line of communication where users can judge, and be judged, without having to deal with any immediate reaction. This has given bullies in middle schools and high schools easier access to their targets. While also giving them a screen to hide behind.
In an article titled “Social Networking Sites are more popular or more harmful,” the author, Teagan Willsher, recalls a situation where a teenage girl received a crude message over a social networking site, and after reading it committed suicide in 2011.
We all hear Facebook users complain about their “friends” posting things like “Had a great workout, going to take a shower!” No one really wants to know that, however it is not just the daily posts that influence others’ perceptions of your life. There is an image that each user wants to put forth, and that image is often of their “good side.” This often entails posting photos of vacations, athletic events, birthdays, friend groups and when they have fresh makeup on.
This can lead to some false interpretations of other user’s lives. This is especially true for people who do not see their “friends” or “followers” every day.
Not only are users constantly comparing their lives to others rather than simply being themselves, but also defining their popularity by an artificial “friend count” or “average likes” on their photos and posts. This is something that most user’s claim they do not do, however, as the years go on social media is only growing in prevalence. Thankfully users are beginning to see the harmful effects of being immersed in a constant social circle.
There is an epidemic that psychologists deem “Facebook Depression.” This term encompasses all the repercussions of excessive use of social media. There is also a video on YouTube that has around 11.8 million views titled, “Facebook Depression.” The 2:35 minute video outlines, and somewhat exaggerates, how people put a false veil over what is really going on in their life to make it look like what they think others would want to see. This not only leads to a false perception from others, but an even more deflated image of one’s self. Users begin to compare their lives to those of others, and also their own false perception of themselves.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has admitted to the fact that Facebook has taken on burdens that are not meant to leave the middle-school classroom. But Facebook is not the only culprit to blame. All social media sites need to take responsibility for this issue and pay attention to what is being posted and the repercussions it can cause. Along with the media sites themselves, parents, teachers and most of all friends, must pay attention to the side effects of social media and try to figure a way to prevent any further damage.