By Tressa McIff
Walking through the crowded hallways of almost any high school, it is a rare sight to see teenagers looking around at their surroundings or talking to friends rather than staring down at their phone. Even the few that aren’t focused on their phone in the hallway pull out their phone and start going through Snapchat or scrolling down Instagram as soon as they get to class.
So many teenagers these days feel a constant pressure and need to be always present on social media. It often seems that their whole lives revolve around it. If something that happens in real life isn’t Instagram worthy, it isn’t life worthy.
Because of this, many people, especially parents and teachers, see social media as a purely evil force taking their children’s minds away from school work and family time. However, social media isn’t as cut and dry as it might seem. Social media is one of those tricky things that is all about weighing the pros and cons, both of which there are plenty. It can be very helpful in developing and maintaining long-distance relationships as well as keeping track of news from around the world. On the other hand, it can have numerous negative mental and emotional consequences, such as worsening depression and self-esteem.
Most kids at least start out using social media just to keep up with their family that lives across the country or childhood friends that move away. This can be extremely beneficial as it builds stronger relationships and develops connections that would probably otherwise be broken. Social media can also be used for long distance networking and building professional relationships. It is much easier for people in more secluded areas to connect with professionals whom they admire and respect even if they live in another state or even country. Many modern businesses begin and grow significantly on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. It helps them market toward their audience and allows customers to have more personalized and instant access to the company.
With newsworthy events, both good and bad, constantly taking place all over the world, it would be nearly impossible to keep up without social media. With the rise in the use of social media comes an increase in awareness of social and political issues, especially among teenagers and young adults. Thanks to Snapchat and Twitter, politicians and civil rights activists have more of a youth-based following. This involvement essential in today’s political climate because, as adults always say, young people are the future.
Despite all these positive effects of social media, there is still significant pushback from adults on teenagers being active online, not without good reason. The biggest argument is that social media negatively affects teenagers’ mental health. It can increase symptoms of depression, anxiety, and worsen self-esteem.
The problem with social media starts with the addictive aspects behind it. According to a study done at UCLA, certain sections of teens’ brains are activated by receiving likes on social media, which causes them to want more and more. Along with other regions, the nucleus accumbens, which is part of the rewards center, lights up when teenagers get likes on social media posts. This part of the brain is especially sensitive during one’s teenage years, which could explain why teens are particularly attached to social media.
Along with addiction, social media has been shown to have a strong link to depression and anxiety. Although social media has not necessarily been proven to cause depression, it has been connected to worsening symptoms, such as lack of social activity, an increase in loneliness and worsened self-esteem, according to verywellfamily.com. It has also been shown that the more social media accounts a teenager has, the more likely they are to have issues with anxiety. With the constant pressure to be present online and the expectations thought to come with each social media website, it is no surprise that modern-day teenagers have issues with depression and anxiety.
Studies are constantly being done that show new ways social media both positively and negatively affects the teenage brain. In the end, people have to decide for themselves whether or not being present online is worth it.