Social media has transformed the way we communicate in our daily lives. While there are many upsides to social media, there are also negative consequences.
Considering that young people have different social media habits than previous generations, it can be difficult for parents and other adults to understand the challenges young people face. Here’s a look into what your kids may be thinking.
Snapchat and Instagram are King
For teens and young people, Snapchat and Instagram are the go-to platforms. I personally use both of these apps multiple times every day. Both platforms center around pictures but snapchat has a greater emphasis on direct person-to-person communication.
The rise of Snapchat and selfies seems to be confusing to many adults, including my parents. My mother frequently expresses concern about why I take selfies on Snapchat, thinking it’s out of vanity or self-obsession; but, I mostly do it out of habit or boredom. For many, including myself, sending a selfie on snapchat is just something to do.
Putting Your Best Face Forward is Hard
Parents may also have trouble understanding the problems that arise with self-esteem and anxiety, because platforms like Snapchat and Instagram emphasize the use of pictures. On Instagram especially, people post only the photos they look best in and some people edit or filter photos. It can be difficult seeing a stream of pictures every day featuring an exaggerated and perfect version of people and their lives.
While this can be difficult for boys, girls face even more social pressure. Although I haven’t experienced this first-hand, I’ve witnessed the pressure to look skinny in photos, especially for my female friends. Feelings of inadequacy about our own lives are inevitable.
Almost Nothing Happens in Secret
With the frequent use of social media, it’s rare that any social gathering happens without someone posting about it. This brings about plenty of opportunities for anxiety and other stressors to occur.
On most days (and nights), I come across a post on my social media feed of someone doing something cooler or having more fun than I am. I have felt unsatisfied with my life at times because of social media, and I’m sure I’m not alone.
This is difficult. I find it hard to see friends having fun without me and it’s even worse when I’m watching the event in real-time. Snapchat has a map feature, where I can see my friends’ locations and if they are together - even if they don’t post anything on their stories.
It’s natural that friends will occasionally want to be around a different or more intimate group of people that I’m not part of, but that doesn’t mean my knowing about it doesn’t cause a bit of pain.
I’m sure my parents’ friends spent time together without them at some point, but I doubt they called to tell them about it. Why? Because it’s hurtful. It’s harder for my generation to be discreet about where we are and who we’re with.
In complex social hierarchies like high school and even college, seeing friends or acquaintances hang out and attend parties without you can create a lot of anxiety about being left behind. In the age of friend groups having group chats, removing people from those conversations is another form of insult.
I believe this is a particularly important concept for parents to understand. If you see your child sitting on the couch on their phone looking upset on a Saturday night, it’s possible that they’re seeing a social event they got left out of. I’ve been in this situation and having my parents ask, “Why don’t you hang out with some friends?” is well-intentioned but can also cause unnecessary heartache.
We’re Used to This Additional Stress
People my age have spent a large portion of our lives with social media and the additional stressors that come with it. We have spent years worrying about how many likes our posts get, why someone unfollowed us or why someone else is having more fun.
Social media is ingrained in my generation and it can be very difficult to take a break. Features like “streaks” on snapchat and stories that expire in 24 hours on both Snapchat and Instagram keep us going back to our phones frequently, every single day.
Young people use social media differently than our parents and older generations, ditching Facebook primarily for platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. These platforms bring about a different set of challenges to our daily lives. Understanding how young people use social media is the first step in fostering a dialog between parents and teens, potentially easing some of the problems social media creates.
For more information about social media and whether it could be contributing to your child’s moods and behavior, click here.
Drew is a sophomore at Rice University in Houston, Texas currently studying Political Science and Sport Management. As an avid social media user, he has experienced firsthand what it’s like growing up and being a teenager in a world dominated by Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
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