Tiktok. Snapchat. Instagram.
These popular social media apps are rapidly capturing the time and attention of the teen generation. As teenagers across the world are glued to their phones, unrealistic images, flawless faces, and unattainable beauty standards flood their brains. Although social media allows you to access your friends' or celebrities' lives from any device, it is harming the future generation of teens. Plus, the lives that teenagers are following are far from reality.
This article will explore how the fear of missing out (FOMO) causes teenagers to turn to social media and how its content submerges teens, leading to devastating consequences such as mental illness and eating disorders. Such negative effects and fake realities beg the question: Should social media exist, and is it remotely possible to live without it?
Social Media Spiral
Research shows that 90% of teens ages 13-17 use social media. Social media has played a prominent role in teenagers' lives. From entertainment to sports, or finding out something new, teenagers are dependent on it for its many uses.
But with all this “fun” that comes with social media, a gilded world of terror lies underneath popular social media apps. Multiple studies show that social media lead to disrupted sleep, increased feelings of anxiety, and depression. Teens know that social media is detrimental to their health yet 54% of teens say that it is difficult to give these apps up. Why is this? Why are more than half of teens willingly hurting their health? This is due to the “feel-good chemical” called dopamine. This chemical is the reason why living without social media is impossible.
As teens use their favorite social media apps, dopamine allows for feelings of pleasure and joy. This may seem good at first, but it is far from it. Social media hooks teens on dopamine, as it causes its users to release it in high amounts in short bursts meaning that this feeling of happiness lasts for a only short period.
When teens aren’t on social media, their body craves high amounts of dopamine. This is why social media is so hard to give up. It’s comparable to a drug. Social media companies want users to spend lots of time and energy on their apps because they know you will get hooked. This creates an ongoing cycle of more teenagers submerging into these apps, making it difficult to get out.
What's worse, since so many teens are hooked on social media, it can be discouraging to give it up. It can feel that you’re missing out on something, or you don’t belong. A teen girl agrees with this, stating, “I'm worried that people will forget about me.” Another teen states “I can’t imagine my life without it”.
Social media has become so powerful that it has created this strong bond that we can’t allow to be broken. But teens must ask themselves the question: if they want to feel more involved and connected with their friends' lives, why is it an Instagram photo or a TikTok video? Social media has created this sense that seeing pictures of your peers is a way of building a connection with someone when they are far from it. Relationships should be built in person with real conversations.
Benefits of Life without Social Media
You may be second-guessing if you want to take a pause or even quit social media. It is a hard decision, but it is worth it. You will be able to build genuine relationships.
Leaving social media will force you to be more social in real life. It will create the opportunity to make deeper friendships and talk to people who really care about you. Quitting social media will give you the close, life-long friendships you're looking for, one that is worth more than just a like. Additionally, you will escape online social pressure. Social media subconsciously makes teens feel pressure to participate in activities they may not feel comfortable in. It sometimes creates the idea that if teens aren't attending a specific event or part of a trend, they are out of place or don't belong. For example, the "clean girl aesthetic" trend rose on TikTok. Some teens may feel insecure if they can't fit the "clean girl aesthetic". They may feel the need to change who they are simply because everyone else is doing it. Maybe a new shirt is trending on Tiktok. All the famous influencers are wearing it, but you can't afford it. Maybe a teen doesn't feel comfortable wearing that top. It's endless. Social media force teens to think they must be part of the latest trends and styles to fit into society. This is far from the truth.
Alternatives to Social Media
I know what you're thinking. I will miss out on my friends or favorite celebrities' lives. I find this entertaining and relaxing.
Although seeing your favorite celebrity take on the red carpet or your friend's new post of her on the beach can be fun, there are other alternatives. Here is a list of examples.
- Go on a hike
- Coloring in Adult Coloring Books
- Redecorate your room
- Try DIY Projects
- Write for The Teen Magazine!!!
Is there an Answer?
The simple answer is yes, it is possible to live a fulfilling life without relying on social media. In fact, living a life without social media will do much more good for our generation. Without social media, you would be decreasing the risks of depression and other mental illnesses.
In fact, you will feel much more calm and at peace with your life. You are no longer comparing your life to celebrities or even your next-door neighbor. You will be focusing more on yourself. Although "focusing on yourself" sounds boring, it is far from it. Focusing on yourself gives you the ability to find your passions and what you want to bring to the world, which is worth so much more than any social media app. Not only will you learn more about who you are, but your academic performance will also increase significantly. Researchers from Rutgers University-New Brunswick found that teens who use social media more than 60 minutes a day on a weekday have significantly lower grades and test scores. Why would you let an app affect your chances of success in the future? Social media is closing the door to teens loving themselves and being grateful for the opportunities shared with them. Life is meant to be a journey full of ups and downs. It's a time when you get to experience moments of love and joy, some of which you can learn from. It is not meant to be constantly comparing one journey to another. Everyone's journey is special and is their own. Nobody's journey is better than another.
I must admit, I spend a lot of time on social media as well. If I haven’t been on it in a few hours, I get this feeling that I’m missing something. That something isn’t right.
But, I have realized something. Social media has subconsciously manipulated people into thinking that they are missing out by not using their app and that they aren’t being present with their friends. As teens, we should refuse to give social media power and control. Instead, you should make the choices for your own life, be proud of who you are, and not let social media tell you otherwise.