3 January, 2023
Pick up a random person’s phone and check what apps they use. Chances are that there’s at least one social media app, whether that be Instagram, Tik Tok, Facebook, Snapchat, or even YouTube. According to Pew Research, as of February 8, 2021, 84% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 use at least one social media site. Across all ages, YouTube was the most commonly used at 81%.
Social media is under fire for all of the negative effects it has, such as long screen times, “disrupting their [teens] sleep, and exposing them [teens] to bullying, rumor spreading, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and peer pressure,” according to the Mayo Clinic. While all of these issues are certainly present in society and need to be resolved, social media can have a positive effect on people.
According to Internet Matters, a website dedicated to internet safety for young people, the benefits of social media use in young people can be seen in digital media literacy and mental health. Social media is the new way to communicate to those who may not be in the same room, and use of social media helps develop communication skills on a variety of platforms. On top of increased communication skills, social media also provides a way to practice these skills by expanding social connections beyond the local town. This “can help maintain relationships and allow them to stay in touch and share their lives with ease.”
Internet Matters also elaborated that social media provides a place for people to seek support. Sometimes people aren’t comfortable talking to family or friends about certain topics, and social media provides a platform for these people to receive validation and encouragement. As well as a supportive community, social media also allows people to campaign for a cause and create a positive digital footprint. Teenagers have used social media to bring certain causes to light and “have a real-world impact on affecting change where they want to see it.” Creating a positive digital footprint on social media allows for an online portfolio that can help teens in the future.
Social media is notorious for negatively affecting people’s self-esteem. However this isn’t always the case. Social media can help self-esteem, but it comes with a caveat. According to the Thrive Initiative through Penn State University, “positive impacts [of social media] on self-esteem can occur through interactions via social media if adolescents feel a sense of connectedness and support.” The supportive and connected environment that social media can provide must be present to have a positive effect on self-esteem. They are inseparable; it’s hard for one to exist without the other.
Additionally, social media can help people get comfortable in front of the camera. Until recently, I hated having pictures taken of me. I still haven’t figured out exactly why. When I first got Instagram I never posted myself, just pictures of my pets or the places I went to. If I was in any picture, my face would be obscured, and even that was a rare occurrence. My profile picture was of a flower, not me.
But then, I posted a picture of myself. Not me looking away, not just the scenery, but me. It was a slow transition, beginning with a team picture, evolving into me with a mask on (thanks to Covid-19) and finally me. No mask. No far away shot. Just me, and that was a good thing.
Snapchat also helped my comfort in front of the camera. I barely used it (and still rarely do) but I gained a friend who started a streak with me. Over time, taking pictures of myself began to feel more natural to me. I was okay with other people seeing pictures of my face. I still have that streak to this day, and I don’t even hesitate to take a picture of myself. All thanks to social media.
While social media can cause harm, in my experience it ultimately led to a good thing: comfort with how I looked. Now, sometimes I’m the person with the camera, being the one to take the picture with my friends, instead of the one covering her face.
While social media isn’t all good, it isn’t all bad either. The solution weighs in balance. Time should be balanced between being online and living in the moment. So I encourage you, don’t be glued to your Instagram, engrossed in your number of likes, but also don’t be afraid to hop into that group picture.