It’s a known fact that social media has been a staple in the past two generations. Both the millennials and the teens of Generation Z have a strong reputation when it comes to Snapchat and avocado toast; the former is something that has become an addiction, as adults constantly remind us. With all respect to journalists and their work on social media, I think it is important to consult the everyday users: the millennials and Gen Zer’s themselves. I spoke with four TPS students to explore their opinions on social media.
Let’s start with the good. Social media is a tool that is used for business publicity, keeping in touch with people near and far from us, and learning new things about the world. Katie Fang cited one of her specific positive experiences with social networks, saying, “In 7th grade, I made friends with a classmate from TPS. We were the only girls in the entire class and send messages to each other regularly. Although we’ve never met and sometimes get caught up in our studies, we still encourage each other and hope to meet in person someday.” Annette Gustafsson, an Instagram and Twitter user, says she uses social media to enhance her connections with the rest of the world. “I have an autoimmune disorder, and I use Instagram as a way of letting people know how I’m doing. When I post about my health people reply letting me know that they’re praying for me!”
With all the good, though, there is inevitable evil. When asked to summarize their opinions on the negative side of social media, almost all of the interviewees mentioned how much time is wasted online. Gustafsson writes, “I see people use Instagram for hours, looking at pointless posts and wasting their time. I’m not saying I’m immune to this, but I try so hard to limit my time on social media.” When it comes to her accounts on Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, Fang says, “Sometimes [I will] tell myself, ‘Just five more minutes,’ but [I] actually end up chatting for a half hour. This usually results in my going to bed at an unreasonable hour.”
Another downside to social networking is that we cannot rely on it to reflect any given person’s real life. Makenzie Davis, clay‘s head of PR and social media relations, writes, “Social media, at its best, only reveals what people care to share with others, usually the rose-colored, happiest experiences of their life. This false presentation of a seemingly perfect life can leave others wanting things they cannot have, or comparing their lives/relationships to others’ [false ones].” Another common thread found in most interviewees’ responses was social media-induced anxiety; they sometimes judge themselves based on how many likes their posts receive or how many followers they have in comparison to their friends. “From personal experience, I have struggled with judging myself, my relationships, and even my life with people [on social media],” says Davis. “[Social media emits] the fear of being left behind, especially with likes. In this world, the amount of likes that you receive can help determine who you are, which is confusing and complicated,” says Instagram and Twitter user Kalijah Rahming.
We can come to the conclusion, then, that social media has pros and cons. While this is the judgment shared in almost every article on social media, there is much the interviewees spoke on that those articles frequently ignore. To begin, we can clearly see that teenagers are not oblivious to the dangers of social networks. We can also see that said teens do not simply accept these facts and glue themselves to their phones despite it all; there is an evident longing and effort for change. These four interviews begin to shed light on the flaws in the current stereotype of young people on the internet, not to mention the countless quotes from professionals and the scientific studies done regarding this topic. At the end of the day, it’s important to look at the images we sculpt for others in order to make sure we are displaying the truth about them.
All images are from Google unless otherwise noted.
Special thanks to TPS students/clay staff members Kalijah, Annette, Katie, and Makenzie for help with this article.