As I’m writing this article at my bedside desk, my phone sits inches away, constantly calling for me to pick it up. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to social media; I consciously try to stay off it and even limit myself to a few hours a day on social media apps. But no matter how hard I try to suppress it, I can’t help but feel an urge to check my phone — a need to know what is happening in the world.
Social media is a defining part of our generation. It is our way of communicating, sharing, and connecting with each other and the world around us. But social media has drawbacks too, some of which can lead to detrimental results.
A recent Wall Street Journal investigation highlights how Instagram’s format of sharing the perfect image of oneself can impact the health of teenagers: “The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression.”
In their report on body image in 2020, Facebook’s researchers found that 40% of teen boys experience negative social comparison.
The investigation focuses on girls’ experiences, but it also discusses the influence of social media on boys. As young men, it’s important to recognize that we aren’t immune to its effects. According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2019 Facebook’s researchers “found that 14% of boys in the U.S. said Instagram made them feel worse about themselves.” In their report on body image in 2020, Facebook’s researchers found that 40% of teen boys experience negative social comparison.
These findings are not unfounded in our community. On the condition of anonymity, Student A acknowledges that he has encountered similar things while browsing social media.
“I’ve seen groups that romanticize eating like 300 calories a day, and there are other groups, kind of like the same thing, that basically promote other forms of self harm,” Student A said. “If you really go deep enough, you can find a lot of groups and hashtags like these.”
Regardless of one’s use of social media, the potentially harmful influence is clear. Student A believes that Instagram’s system of ‘likes’ results in a desire for validation.
“The negative parts of social media, specifically Instagram, come from people seeking approval from their followers or people who they follow,” Student A said. “[Instagram] is a way to bring people together, but the problem with that is that it’s not always a good thing.”
Student B shares a similar opinion.
“Instagram isn’t so much about sharing cool things anymore,” Student B said. “It’s more about obtaining ‘likes’ to sort of boost your ego.”
Still, individual experiences on social media vary. For Student C, social media has led him to explore new activities.
“Social media was the driving force into me starting to workout, so that’s a positive,” Student C said. “It also helped me get a sense of fashion and exposed me to clothes [I would want to wear].”
Although Instagram’s ‘like’ system can promote validation-seeking posts, the process of choosing a photo can evoke enjoyment. Student C believes that finding the “right photo” can be a pleasant experience.
“A lot of people want to try and think of the best place to take an Instagram pic,” Student C said. “I think it’s fun.”
As members of different online communities, it is crucial that we do not equate digital statuses as representations of ourselves.
Social media, through its variety of applications and digital mediums, requires us to weigh its pros and cons. While we have access to many different communication networks, outside influence within the digital space poses a threat to our health. As members of different online communities, it is crucial that we do not equate digital statuses as representations of ourselves.
At its core, social media creates an atmosphere that simply brings people together. Whether that connectivity is beneficial or not continues to be determined by us—the users.