Social media is a complex issue as it can be both be destructive and constructive to one’s self-esteem. In this day and age, when almost everyone has an Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, or Tumblr, it is hard to judge the worth of social media. Is it a waste of time or rather a valuable resource to help bring people together?
Recently, many social media users have defended their reasons for being online in light of Australian teen Essena O’Neill’s video “Why I REALLY am quitting social media.” Is it true that everyone lives their lives online, and everything we see on social media should therefore be taken as ‘real’?
For most users, the answer is no. I spoke with a few students, one being sophomore Nhi Hong. When questioned if she has ever taken or staged photos to impress others, Hong said yes. Hong stated, “Whenever I get something that looks really cool like a crêpe or whatever, I usually post it on my Snapchat story and I like it when people see it.” Others have jokingly said, “If you didn’t post it to your Snapchat story, did it really happen?”
This statement brings to light how many teenagers enjoy having their social media profiles viewed and admired, and feel the need to validate their experiences by posting “evidence.” A freshman boy, who wishes remain unidentified, said jokingly, “[Being on social media]’s all I ever do. It’s pretty much my life.”
Many put only the best moments of their lives online, using social media to curate a ‘likable’ profile. At it’s most narcissistic, social media is often a platform that allows people to boost their egos and to present themselves as perfect people. But it’s not just teenagers who use social media.
Some students said they don’t feel a pressure to be on social media at all. When asked if this pressure exists, sophomore Laura Parisi replied, “I use social media just to connect with others and reconnect with people who have been in my life previously but I lost contact with, so no, I don’t really feel pressure.”
When I asked if they ever take photos to stage an experience to impress others and make it seem better than it actually was, both sophomore Julia Marks and Park replied, “No.”
There were mixed responses to this question.
Many adults use social media too, especially Facebook, though many say they use it primarily for work or news. Katherine Keigher, an English teacher at M-A said, “If anything, I read a lot of news on social media, and I probably spend too much time doing that, but I know I could also get my news elsewhere if I chose to.”
Many teenagers also find their news on social media. Sophomore Natalie Park said, “Someone posted an article, so I kind of spent an hour reading about that, and I guess that might be considered a waste of time to some people, but I like staying informed on the news.”
Social media is a fairly new outlet for news, but it is sometimes not a trustworthy source, and with “clickbait” – articles that try to grab people’s attention and are essentially terribly written and a waste of time – all over the internet, it is far too easy to get sucked away by extraneous information.
Social media can take up lots of time and make one feel isolated if he or she doesn’t participate. However, many platforms can be used for inspiration to share ideas, capture a real experience in an authentic way, or stay in touch with friends and family. For some, it can be refreshing to take a break from social media. Doing so makes it easier to enjoy experiences offline without the pressure of feeling the need to document it.