The Growing Effects of Social Media on Adolescent Minds

As technology's place in society becomes more and more prevalent, many debate the effect that it has on young children as well as teenagers. Social media is perhaps the form of technology that youth use the most, and some may argue that it causes mental health issues and undesirable behavior among young people. As mental health issues among teens are now at an all time high, we must ask the obvious question... is it because of social media?

A study done by the Pew Research Center tells us that 69% of adults and 81% of teens in the USA use social media. If social media is in fact linked to decreasing mental health, then the majority of Americans would be at risk. Some risks of continual social media use include a rise in depression, self esteem issues, and addiction. Addiction to social media occurs because it releases dopamine, a "feel-good" chemical. Because of this, one may continue to use a networking app even if it is clearly having negative effects on them and their mental health.

A rise in depression may occur when one compares their life to others online. Social media allows the user to only post videos and pictures that show the best part of them and their life. This may cause another social media user to think that everyone else has a picture perfect life, while they still struggle day to day. Trends to show off people's perfect day to day routine may cause others to look at themselves as lazy and unmotivated, when in reality the person is watching a small carefully curated snippet of an influencer's life. Social media also allows ample opportunity for cyber-bullying, as many people cannot grasp the consequences of rude words when hiding behind a screen.

Self image issues, especially among young girls, are definitely at an all time high. As extremely attractive people often go viral because of their appearance, many teens now compare themselves to "picture-perfect" people. This can be particularly draining, especially since it is currently normalized to use filters and editing, creating even more unrealistic standards. Plastic surgery is now also societally accepted, and many young women feel pressured to change their features to perfectly fit the beauty standard that is so aggressively pushed. Many people feel that with the rapid growth of unrealistic beauty standards, people have begun to view normal looking average people as "ugly" or "unattractive".

Social medias such as Tiktok may also encourage a shortened attention span. Videos on Tiktok are often between 10 seconds to 3 minutes, and after continually using this app, it may be hard to stay focused for prolonged periods of time.

Social media is essentially a way to advertise the best parts of people's lives and appearance. Because of this, many youth have unrealistic views of what they should look like or how their life should be. This is definitely unhealthy, especially for young children, as it creates completely unrealistic standards for them to try to live up too. Social media can also be used positively, in ways such as connecting with long distance friends and learning more about one's interests. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to cut out all social media from their day to day life, but remember to limit yourself and be mindful of your thoughts while using the apps. Have a healthy perception of real life, and try to use time often spent on social media to socialize or to become better at a hobby . Remember that everything seen on social media is not as it appears, and try to escape the unhealthy tendency of comparison. If necessary, one could even try a social media cleanse for a couple days to see if it has much of an effect. More than anything, remember that reality is more important than social media, and the number of likes you get has nothing to do with who you are as a person.