By Sahara Sriraman, Age 16

As a teenager, you already have so much pressure put on you from school to applying to colleges to extracurricular activities. You are already expected to have everything figured out at such a young age, so it makes it harder for you to enjoy your teen years. This especially puts more pressure on the youth now because of how much pressure you have to be perfect all the time and how it affects you from such a young age. Unfortunately, the growth of social media has only worsened this issue.

Social media has been affecting this generation negatively as its effects continue to grow. There are so many social media apps out there and everyone nowadays is pressured to have all of them to keep up with their peers and everything going on. The more followers, likes, and comments you have, the more relevant you are to this generation and the more respect you get from it. The effect social media has on kids today is so terrible, not only what it does to them but how it affects them from a young age. If you’re taught that what people think of you on social media is one of the most important things, then naturally, you’re going to spend a lot of time and effort trying to maintain that ‘perfect’ image.

Social media is rarely used by teens for good anymore. It was made to update people on what you’re doing, where you are, etc. However, now it’s just used to get more likes on a picture than someone else or maintain Snap streaks with someone you haven’t talked to in 5 years. Social media, especially Instagram, is now about portraying yourself and your life as flawless. This perfection doesn’t come easy though. After awhile, you find yourself taking dozens of pictures for hours, desperate to find that one perfect one to post with a completely nonchalant caption that makes it seem like you took the photo completely by chance.

Of course, as being part of this generation brainwashed by social media, I am now caught up in this madness of perfection. I find myself saying, “This is the perfect lighting for a picture!” or “I only need one more like until I reach two hundred likes.” I used to constantly find myself obsessing over how many followers I had and followed more people in order to gain more. Once I had reached a social media goal I’d had for a while, it didn’t feel like enough and I felt like I needed to get more likes/followers. The only way to describe this feeling is: Obsession.

As someone who used to never know when to take a step back and analyze the situation before responding, social media was the main reason I had increasingly sinking self-esteem. Seeing beautiful girls with perfect bodies and even more perfect lives made me feel bad about myself, that I wasn’t enough and would never be enough. In school, I was already dealing with people who would make me feel badly about who I was and social media made that issue even worse. I tried so hard to release an image out to the world that I was this perfect girl with a perfect life. But then I became something else: boring and normal. Trying to imitate what every single other girl out there was made me exactly the same as them. I didn’t realize that social media made me a completely different person until it was too late and I had already become that person.

I have been through a lot in my life from being insecure about my skin color to trying to like what all the popular girls at my school liked, what they wore and to not eating when I was hungry because I didn’t think I needed to. I tried so hard to be a cookie cutter image of what society said I needed to be. Along the way, I lost touch with myself, my true self.

Even though I’ve had social media for years and it has done some good for me, it has also caused me to dislike myself at times.  It has made me constantly look at myself in the mirror and wonder why I couldn’t be beautiful like these other girls who had it so easy. Even though it had brought me to some really low points, I just couldn’t seem to turn away from it.

However, over the past year, I’ve learned self-control when it comes to social media. I’ve learned how to turn it off when I need to. I think that I’ve learned how to take a step back and say, “I’m better than this.” when I see how much it’s hurting me. Previously, I had allowed social media to take over my life and after seeing how negatively it affected me, I realized that I could no longer put myself through those feelings, not again.

Although I still spend more time on my phone than I probably should, I now know how to turn it off and do something else to get my mind off of it. I’ve now realized that those girls who portray their lives as perfect aren’t actually flawless. When people post on social media, they only show the good stuff and never the bad stuff. But I’ve realized that that is not real life. Pretending like you’re someone that you’re not to trick other people is only hurting yourself. My gradually decreasing social media obsession is something that I know that I had to learn to address on my own; no one else can help me with it. Only I know when I need to turn off my phone and take a break from it all.  

Now, I am a different person and know that I’m going to bring more people into my life by being my true self. And even though I am still figuring all of that out, I am discovering more parts of myself that social media has hidden from me. Social media has tried to change who I am plenty of times, but now I am learning to focus on the more important things that actually matter, such as my loved one, school and my future–and to be proud of who I am and who I am becoming. And as I figure all this out, I have learned to embrace who I am and realize I’d rather be myself than an exact replica of every other person out there.

As a parent, you want what’s best for your child and to protect them from the unforgiving cruelty of the world. However, social media has caused teenagers to lower their own self-esteem by realizing their own insecurities and over magnifying them to an unnecessary amount. Most parents may think that the safest and most reasonable thing to do would be to take away social media all together, so it cuts off any access their kids have with the online world. However, kids will most likely find another way to secretly get social media. If you’re a parent dealing with a teenager who is has an unhealthy attachment to social media, try taking the logical approach: TALK to them. Ask them why they need social media so much and why they need it to be their main focus every day. This will help them to come to terms with their own insecurities and encourage them to face them head on, not hide behind a social media account. Social media is an entity that is taking over this generation and kids today will do whatever they can to have it. It has become a crutch for teenagers today and they fall back on it when things in real life get difficult. They need to realize what’s best for them because, in the end, it’s their independent decision. As parents, you try to always protect them and catch them when they fall, but life isn’t always going to be that way. They need to learn how to make decisions for themselves because those tough decisions will benefit them in the end. Parents can also try talking with their kids about how social media will hurt them in the future, so the parents and kids can face the issue head on together and work on the appropriate solution. Help your teen identify their underlying self-esteem issues that may have originated from social media and help them address these issues together, as a family.  Help them address these issues because only then will they learn how to fix it and become a better version of themselves.

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