Teens obsessed with social media

Teens obsessed with social media

Anna Orlandi, Feature Editor

Whether it’s scrolling through their Twitter feed, sending Snapchats, or posting pictures on Instagram, teens spend nearly one third of their day on their phones. According to a study from Common Sense Media, teenagers typically spend around nine hours a day using social media. Whether it be a way to talk with friends or simply spend extra time, a dependency on social media and technology has emerged.

Social media, websites or apps for sharing content and social networking, can be found on nearly every teen’s phone. They can be used for connecting with old friends, staying informed with news stories, or filling spare time with entertaining content.

The majority of senior Katie Pereira’s family lives in Portugal, so she’s grateful technology can help bring them closer. She uses Facebook to “stay in contact with them, without having to ride a plane or schedule a phone call in two different time zones.”

She also thinks social media offers an opportunity to learn about beliefs across the world, rather than just those in a small town. Pereira sometimes encounters a news event on her Twitter timeline before any other platform, prompting her to research it further.

Although social media proves helpful, its prevalence is increasing at rapid rates and sparking adverse consequences. The entertainment and constant refresh of new information intoxicates some, making it hard to get homework done or remain productive.

Although some students brag about their multitasking skills as they alternate between sending a quick snapchat and working on calculus homework, neuroscientists agree it “leads to spottier, shallower, less flexible learning.”

Some teachers attempt to combat this distracted learning by collecting phones at the start of class. Although most students dread this rule, Angel Estrada, a senior with fivw social media accounts, finds relief in handing over her phone.

Estrada says she relies on her phone so much, it distracts her from important things in her daily life. “When I don’t have my phone in class, I’m not even tempted to check my messages. I can finally concentrate and feel totally present.”

Tristan Harris co-founded Time Well Spent, an organization that analyzes the future of technology, and offers insight into why social media can be so addicting. He argues technology companies perpetuate this obsession by racing to capture attention and “outdo their competitors by using increasingly persuasive techniques to keep us glued.”  

YouTube automatically plays a similar video after each one finishes. Instagram quantifies popularity by sharing the amount of likes on a picture. Snapchat turns conversations into streaks, counting how many consecutive days people use the app. These techniques entice users to keep using the app, helping the companies, but hurting productivity.

Senior Abby Potorski acknowledges the futility of spending too much time on social media, but she continues to use the apps. “Going on my phone is so convenient and entertaining. It’s a more tempting way to spend my time, even if I know I should be doing work,” she says.

With over two billion people using Facebook, there must be a greater reason for the widespread popularity. Social media not only passes time, but ignites the brain with rewards.

The UCLA Brain Mapping Center’s research reveals that when teens receive likes on pictures, their brain’s reward centers activate with energy. This reward entices teens to continue to post on social media, in search of likes or validation.

Social validation is an important factor in this technology dependency, especially for teenagers. The number of people who “liked” each photo are displayed publicaly. This can either boost someone’s ego or ignite harmful comparisons — in both scenarios the individual will probably continue to post another picture in search of more likes.

Most Instagram feeds are covered in pictures of tropical vacations, filtered selfies, or gourmet meals. These snapshots aren’t typical representations of most lives, but rather the happiest and most fun moments. These inaccurate representations tend to spiral, creating a generation consumed with presenting themselves close to perfection.

New technology and apps have made it easier to create a fake persona, someone with minimal flaws. Apps, such as Perfect365, can eliminate any blemishes or add makeup to a photo for free.

Filters, a major filter on Snapchat, can transform an entire face in seconds. They can add a flower crown, glasses, or makeup, but nearly all of them increase attractiveness.

A cute flower crown may seem harmless, but the culmination of filters and photoshop tends to distort perspectives. This catalyzes comparisons, bullying, and a strive for false sense of perfection.

Almost half of all adolescents have experienced bullying online before, with 70% of students reportedly witnessing it. The anonymity of social media accounts, the advance in technology, and the increased use of the Internet paved the way for frequent and negative comments. These can have drastic consequences; bullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide.

Senior Ashley Krupa recognizes bullying as a major social issue, but has noticed another more popular flaw in social media. “On most occasions people aren’t directly bullied, but they tend to be judged from farther back. I’ve noticed people tend to gossip, rather than directly confront an individual.”

The majority of students who don’t face bullying or judgments typically encounter a more subtle setback. The use of technology in replace of direct physical interaction negatively affects social development.

“Kids are missing out on very critical social skills. Texting and online communicating puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible,” according to the Child Mind Institute.

Research and studies have shown the reliance social media and on technology have many negative consequences, but whether or not they outweigh the positives elicits discussion. Regardless, its prevalence will probably continue to grow.

A culture based on sharing content and communicating on social media has formed for teenagers. Those who stray from this can face ostracization or exclusion from this main form of communication. Individuals often feel FOMO, fear of missing out, even when away from their phones for a short period of time. In recent years, teenagers have increased their dependency on social media to stay informed and included, despite any adverse effects.