Social media can be good and bad, students say

Holly Viers • Dec 28, 2019 at 5:00 PM

Whether they’re scrolling through memes on Instagram or texting their friends on Snapchat, most of today’s teens use some form of social media.

A 2018 report from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states that 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media, with 75% having at least one active social media profile. Not only that, but teens are spending an average of almost nine hours a day online, not including time for homework, according to the report.

It’s clear that social media is nearly universal among teens, but how does it affect their minds? The Times News asked local teens for their thoughts on social media and whether it creates or reduces stress.

How do teens use social media?

Many teens are using social media as the primary way to communicate with their friends. Rather than texting through their phones’ standard messaging apps, several teens said they text mostly through Snapchat for one reason: privacy.

“I guess people text through Snapchat because you can see if people save your messages or if they screenshot it and send it to people,” said Jasmine Schmidt, a senior at Dobyns-Bennett High School. “Text message, you can’t see if somebody screenshotted it and showed your messages to somebody else. I guess that’s why people do that, to be more private.”

Aside from Snapchat, Instagram is also commonly used among today’s teens, with Facebook becoming less and less common. Still, some teens are online for other reasons.

“I don’t really scroll through Instagram or Snapchat that much,” said Tiara Hughes, an eighth grade student at John Sevier Middle School. “I just watch YouTube or Netflix and stuff like that, but sometimes I’ll get on Snapchat and stuff, just to text friends or my group chat.”

How does social media affect stress levels?

Teens have varied opinions on social media’s relationship with stress. An anonymous senior from Daniel Boone High School said he believes social media reduces stress, as it serves as “a getaway from the day.”

Others have mixed feelings.

“At times after a long day at school, it can be a good way to chill,” said Micah Turner, a freshman at Sullivan Central High School, “and then on the flip side, it can add peer pressure and increase stress.”

Still, other teens expressed more negative opinions about social media. Kristin Thorneloe, a senior at Dobyns-Bennett, said many students fall into the comparison trap, which can make them feel negatively about themselves.

“It’s definitely easy to compare your life to the picture-perfect life that other people put on their Instagram,” Thorneloe said. “They’re posting the great pictures, but for every one picture that they post on Instagram, there’s probably 50 outtakes. So it’s difficult sometimes to see, to know that’s not reality.”

Schmidt added that some teens post inappropriate or hurtful things that can backfire in the long run, while others stress about getting likes and “becoming big” on social media. A 2018 survey by Pew Research Center found that 43% of teens feel pressure not only to post content that makes them look good to others, while 37% feel pressure to post content that will get a lot of likes and comments.

In spite of all that, most teens agree that their generation is addicted to social media, for better or for worse. Some, though, are hoping to change that.

“I think it’s interesting that our generation’s made out to be like this generation that’s completely enveloped into social media,” Thorneloe said. “I think that we know that, and so we’re trying to not be 100% captivated by it.”