By Raquel W. ’21
During Thanksgiving break I made the BOLD decision to delete Instagram, and I will tell you why. It is a given that I would miss the updates from @csusgryphons and @gryphonathletics but I thought it was time to let it go, or to at least give myself a break. The main reason I wanted to take a break was because I found myself excessively scrolling through the black hole of the “Explore” tab on Instagram. I was simply consuming, consuming, and consuming. With it gone, I do have to admit that having one less overwhelming social media platform on my phone allows me to be more focused on my schoolwork and helps me prevent myself from being on my phone an unhealthy amount. In addition, I feel free from all the pressures that social media places on its users: to post, to stay constantly updated, and to compare their lives to the unrealistically perfect projections portrayed on the platform. I find that I have been shockingly liberated and am more aware of the time I spend on my phone.
In all fairness, there are several benefits to using social media. It connects friends and family who may live far from each other and it has the power to spread beneficial messages. It also provides non-profit organizations, politicians and celebrities with a way to easily spread messages and use their influence. A prime positive example would be the Women’s Rights March that started as a twitter post and turned into a nationwide rally in 2017.
Essentially, the average teen consumer must be aware that on social media platforms that are easily accessible to most people, everyone can post anything they want. You have heard the phrase “not everything you read on the internet is true.” This statement is meant to warn you that almost everyone has the capability to post whatever they want on social media. Not a lot of research has been done on the long term effects of social media usage because it is a relatively new concept. Thus, it is important to remain aware of these ever-growing companies as they primarily attempt to maximize their revenue, and do not always consider the health effects of users.
Instagram captions, YouTube video titles, and Snapchat story captions are worded to make you want to click on them. As humans, we have a tendency to want to know the hot gossip, and influencers work to make you want to watch their content, otherwise known as clickbait. Headlines that read “How We Almost Died” make you want to read them, but the challenge is steering clear of these videos, knowing that they rarely live up to the excitement of their misleading titles.
Why should you be aware of this? It seems that teens are on social media more than we would like to admit. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (the AACAP), 90% of teens aged 13 through 17 use social media, with 75% having their own social media account, 51% visiting a platform at least once a day, and ⅔ owning tech devices with access to the internet. The AACAP also estimated that teens spend around 9 hours daily on the internet, excluding time spent on homework. Nine hours seems a bit shocking, but a study done by the West Virginia Education Association also claimed that teens in the US spend 6-9 hours daily on media. Another interesting observation made in this study was that ⅔ of the teens surveyed believed that they could multitask while viewing media. I am sure we have all at one point in our academic careers, attempted the whole “I’ll just play Netflix in the background while I finish up this busywork” only to go find many mindless errors as you glance over it to turn it in. Multi-tasking is something that humans are scientifically incapable of doing. You will have a much smoother process and most likely, a better grade if you give your work your undivided attention.
Excessive use of social media has also been linked to an increase in mental health issues in teens. This is because social media can create pressures to look a certain way because it allows people to portray themselves in a way that is far from reality. In fact, many teens now have access to an unrealistic portrayal of what they should look like, what brands to buy with a rapid and ever-changing “trend” that leaves teens in an endless chase towards an unachievable glory. Social media also opens doors to cyber-bullying and sex-trafficking as well as other forms of misuse. Despite all of this, it is your job to trump all of the curveballs social media throws at you and use it to your own benefit.
An article published by SAGE Journals by the Association for Psychological Science discussed the results of an experiment examining the relationship between mental health and teenage social media use. The experiment found a clear link between teens that used social media/smartphones and depression/suicide-related outcomes. Below is one of the graphs provided in the article, displaying the study’s findings. Excessive use of social media is not only a waste of time but can also lead to social isolation.
Too much of one thing is never good for you. It may be helpful to take a look at the “Screen Time” function in your Settings on your phone so you can see how much time you really are spending on which apps and if you can find another way to better use all of that time. From there, you may want to take a social media app off of your phone or not use any social media and see if your stress levels increase or decrease.
I know that taking a single app off of your phone will not necessarily be life-changing for everyone but I found it valuable even if at a minimal degree because it was one less distraction that I constantly carried with me. After reading this article, I hope that you recognize when it may be time for you to take a break from being a constant consumer and user of social media or that you have at least been reminded to stay conscious of the amount of time and type of content you consume.