In part one, we talked about how new social media is and how this is the first generation of teens to never know a time without it. We looked at some of the effects it is having on relationships and self-esteem as well as increasing anxiety in teens as well as adults. As promised, we’re now going to look at some of the positives and negatives of social media use. I’m a bad news first person, I like to leave you with warm fuzzies, so we’ll start with the negatives. If you’re a good news first person, drop down to that section and then return here, that’s one of the positives of social media.
It seems odd that loneliness would be a factor in social media. Surely if we have all our friends and followers and those we have friended and followed, then we are surrounded by “people” and couldn’t possibly be lonely. The problem is, it’s too much. The term hyperconnection sums it up, we’re always on this high and eventually, there’s a crash. That crash can be from being ignored online, “ghosted,” or being the object of an insult or joke. It can arrive when someone else is suddenly more “popular” than you and your “brand” is no longer the best. Those five minutes of fame can burn in five seconds and leave you feeling empty and alone. Teenagers are especially susceptible to this as their emotions roller coaster anyway, but social media can create some crazy emotional roller coaster rides.
As parents, you need to be aware of what is happening in your teen’s social media life. You don’t need to spy on them, just be where they are so you know (and they know you know) what’s happening. Friend your child on Facebook, follow them on Instagram, be a part of their social media circle, and join in on group texts. This way you know what’s happening, what’s important, who’s important, and you are also aware of how they are being treated and how they are treating others. Problems are like weeds, much easier to pull up when they’re small and before they have gone to seed.
Poor Body Image
What? How could they have poor body image, everything on social media is airbrushed, photoshopped, cropped, and perfect. That’s the problem. How can you have true self-esteem when you’re never going to be good enough? We don’t often see the failures, we see the successes. More importantly, on social media, we see the lie, the kitchen is in shambles, but we see only the one perfect cookie on a plate.
I like to bake (and eat) cookies. There’s nothing wrong with that. I was raised where we simply said cookies were good practice. Some days they turn out tall and fluffy, other days they spread all over the pan. As long as they were good enough to eat they were a success, even on those bad days when they became dog biscuits, it meant the dog was happy.
In today’s world, you post a picture of a plate of lovely homemade cookies, and you will get some positive comments, some negatives, and then the bombardment of comparisons, in which yours will never come out on top. People will post photos of their own cookies, which always look better, or photos of some they are planning on trying next that are from a professional baker. They may post photos of what you should do differently next time to make them look better or ask for your recipe and then either complain about your ingredients being too expensive, not healthy enough, or post some other change you should make. You will quickly find you are no longer happy with your cookies – or yourself.
“Offline, the gold standard advice for helping kids build healthy self-esteem is to get them involved in something that they’re interested in. It could be sports or music or taking apart computers or volunteering—anything that sparks an interest and gives them confidence. When kids learn to feel good about what they can do instead of how they look and what they own, they’re happier and better prepared for success in real life. That most of these activities also involve spending time interacting with peers face-to-face is just the icing on the cake.”Social Media Effects on Teens | Impact of Social Media on Self-Esteem (childmind.org)
Here are some sobering statistics from Utah Department of Health and Human Services
- Up to 95% of youth ages 13-17 report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media “almost constantly.”
- Nearly half of teens ages 13-17 said using social media makes them feel worse.
- More than 60% of teens are regularly exposed to hate-based content.
- Excessive social media use has been linked to sleep problems, attention problems, and feelings of exclusion among teenagers.
- In a review of 36 studies, a consistent relationship was found between cyberbullying on social media and depression among children of all ages.
Social media is powerful, it is addictive, it is serious, but there are also positives.
Aids Those with Social Anxiety
So many of us, especially teenagers, are unsure of our place in the world. Will we be accepted? Will anyone talk to us? What if I blush or get awkward or don’t know what to say? Social media helps us with that. There is always someone online, there’s always a new group to join. If I make a mistake and want to leave a group, I can. No one can see if I’m blushing or crying or have a zit. If I typed the wrong thing I can blame autocorrect or say the cat walked across my keyboard or something else. As long as we keep our usage under control, it can help us build confidence so that we are willing to talk to someone in person. It just needs to be a tool in our belt, not our fort that we hide in.
We all have our phones in our pockets (or hands) and want to check to see what that latest ding means. Do we, or don’t we? As we learn to control our social media usage, we increase our self-control and become better people. As an adult, when you come home from work, do you make sure that you are greeting the people in your home with a smile and a hug or are you walking in doing some last-minute texting or on the phone? In the mornings are we tossing a “bye” after our children as they walk out the door while we concentrate on our emails? They are learning from us, are we teaching that we are in control or our phones are?
The grandkids always love to visit Grandma and Grandpa. One day I laughed as the phone rang and a toddler went running to find it for Grandma. Upon bringing it to her, he frowned when Grandma said, “Thank you,” and then set it aside without answering it. He asked why she didn’t answer it. Grandma said, “Because whoever it is can talk to the machine, I’m talking to you!” Oh, the smile on that little boy’s face was priceless. Are we teaching our children that they are more important than social media? It will carry over to how they regard social media.
Introduces You to Like-Minded People
Let’s face it, even if you have the perfect spouse, they don’t like everything you do. Sometimes you just need to tell someone about that perfect dress you bought at a fabulous price, but you know your husband doesn’t care. It’s nice to go online and share your excitement with someone who will cheer for you. They will validate your find by buying the same dress and share your happiness.
Are you experiencing a remodeling challenge and looking for ideas on how to solve it? There’s help online. Are you having problems with a plant in the garden and have no idea what’s wrong? You can find a gardening group on social media and have the solution soon figured out. Maybe you’re wondering how to communicate with your teen, you can find help for any problem on social media. You may not always be able to solve the problem, but there will be support groups and people to listen. Sometimes it is a blessing to be able to say things and remain anonymous as you are seeking help.
There are many more negatives and positives, my goal has been to make you sit up and take notice. Compare it to Trick-or-Treat, you should have gotten some scares and some smiles, some ideas and some worries. We’ve all heard the maxim, “All things in moderation.” That’s the answer here. Start by looking up how much time you and your kids are spending on social media. Discuss that number together, setting goals for them and you. Begin making changes and you will soon see smiles surrounding you, both because you are all happier and because you are looking at one another instead of your screens.