By Michaela Galarza, Age 17

Social media is a drug just as addictive as alcohol, nicotine and opioids. With technology spreading like wildfire, social media apps such as facebook, snapchat and instagram have gotten teens hooked.

At just thirteen, I first downloaded the app instagram oblivious of its side effects. At first it was cool scrolling for hours through people’s feeds and seeing their effortlessly beautiful pictures, however, in just a short time, I had become devoted to social media and its demands. What I soon discovered was that girls in my school had thousands of followers, hundreds of likes and comments on their pictures, whereas, my instagram feed consisted of a random assortment of old fuzzy selfies with the outdated duck face and only seventeen likes. It had become clear to me that if I wanted to be part of this online world, I would have to step up my game. At this point I was addicted, but I did not care. It was all about getting approval and impressing people with my lifestyle, friends and beauty. My parents would always say, “ you have to be private! No strangers!”, but the desire for more followers was a force stronger than my discernment. I followed random people to get my numbers to climb and posted perfectly edited pictures to follow the trends. Nevertheless, it still wasn’t enough.

What I realize now is that no amount of followers or likes can ever truly represent who I am. Social media is a facade. Whether you have fifty followers or fifty thousand, we are all driven by our craving for approval so we post what makes us look good or seem cool rather than what is true. It was not until I deleted instagram that I realized how addicted I truly was. As I approach two years of being free, I realize how consuming the pressure of living up to others expectations is because of social media.

Just like any other drug, the side effects of social media addiction result in immense damage to a teen’s confidence, self-worth and time. Social media has become the breeding ground for teen self loathing. With the ability to compare yourself to more alluring and picture perfect people, teens get themselves intertwined in an endless cycle for perfectionism. With models posting bikini pictures with flawlessly sculpted bodies and the wealthy showing off their extravagant lifestyles, ordinary teens feel obligated to resemble that ideal.

That is why I feel so free, I do not feel the pressure of living up to the ideal. I have accepted that I am never going to be as beautiful or rich as some, but I have other qualities that make me special.