Social Media and the Impact on Teens

Christina Rhoades, Features Editor

Just because it seems flawless online, doesn’t mean that it’s the whole story. 

Perfect pictures don’t equal a perfect life.

As the internet and social media become even more of a staple and a necessity in everyday life, teenagers grow a dependence on it. It becomes a crutch in their lives. 

Junior Lacey Boots has had social media since she was in sixth grade. Her favorite platform is Instagram, which she says she uses daily. Boots realized how this app affects her mentally but it also helps her express herself. 

“[Social media has] affected me in many ways. Many good ways but sometimes the bad outweigh [them]. Social Media has made me really love photography and most of the influencers that actually care about their community, but it has affected me [and my] mental [health] sometimes because of course insecurities are a thing. Everybody has them,” Boots said. 

Hannah Dunigan, sophomore, says she uses Instagram the most and has had that platform since she was 12. Dunigan enjoys her time in the app but knows it can test her self-esteem. 

“I thoroughly enjoy social media. I’m often on it [and] I try to do inspirational things on Mondays. But I [often] find myself comparing myself to a lot of other people, so in that sense it can be very hard for me. I have to give myself a break sometimes and not spend time on the app because it can be very harmful to my mental health because if often compare my life to others. And then it makes me feel almost less than,” Dunigan said. 

Kimberly Green has been a private therapist for the past 15 years and works with families and adolescents. She has a strong desire to help people and hopes she has. She has also encountered many teenagers who are very involved on social media.

“Well [teenagers] are obsessed with social media. [It] gives them a wider range of options for friends outside of their communities. Gives them way more access to people. It provides them additional formats to find like minded teens with similar interests or challenges and I think they find that appealing,” Green said. 

 Dunigan realizes that Instagram has many benefits and can boost confidence but it can also be abused. There is a fine line between a hobby and an obsession. 

“Social Media can be an amazing way to connect to others and to feel close to others and to spread positivity. I think it’s an excellent platform, but it can be used incorrectly and I think it often is. In the sense that people want to look perfect and show their best version of themselves, [but] we don’t see the backstory. We don’t see them we just see their perfect pictures and that doesn’t only affect me, I know it harms a lot of other people,” Dunigan said. 

Green realized that sometimes teens care too much about their image online. They may base their self worth on how people react to what they post.

“Social media has become a measuring stick in the teen world so, ‘how many likes did my post get,’ may serve as a measuring stick for their self esteem,” Green said.

 Dunigan has expanded her social life on Instagram and used the app to get to know students at her new school, Aylen, before she transferred there before her ninth grade year. 

“It was really great for me because I went to Cascade Christian until eighth grade. When I was trying to make friends prior to having been at a public school, I did some searching and in people’s instagram bios when they have where they’re from it helps me connect myself through them and get to know them sometimes. I made quite a few of my friends here from social media and when I actually moved from Aylen to PHS, I knew a lot of people before I had even met them in person,” Dunigan said.

“It’s easier. It’s less effort… I think we find a lot more teens being drawn to doing things electronically or on social media versus participating in after school activities or sports,” Green said. “It’s instantaneous. They don’t have to wait for it. We get that almost immediate feedback.”

The consuming nature of social media has led many to get sucked into a wormhole where time zooms by. Dunigan admits she’s a victim of this. 

“It shocks me sometimes because I’ll think, oh it’s just five minutes, it’s fine, and it ends up being two hours later. I realize how obsessive I can be over it,” Dunigan said.

Green has seen the result of social interactions because of the influence of social media.

“It distracts them from school a lot of times. The amount of the direct social interaction has been decreased and replaced with interactions through social media,” Green said.

Social media does have some benefits but it’s all about balance. Green understands what’s appealing about the internet but she knows society needs to manage their time and usage.

“Social media can be a great platform for [building relationships]. It’s just the amount of time that’s spent on it and as long as it’s not abused. Everything has positives, it’s just the amount that you’re doing it… It’s just being more engaged and not feeling like your phone is your lifeline,” Green said.

Dunigan hopes that teens realize the addictive and unhealthy nature of social media and Instagram. She hopes they learn to develop a healthy relationship with apps.

“Use your platform correctly. Don’t abuse it and have power over others. Just because you have cuter pictures than someone else doesn’t [mean] you’re better than them,” Dunigan said.