[EDITORIAL] Excessive social media use: dangerous for teenagers


Photo by Wildcat Chronicle Staff

Social media use is a concern, as teenagers spend far too much time online.

By Wildcat Chronicle Staff

You are on your bed, scrolling aimlessly through your phone. Watching video after video killing the time away and suddenly, you look up and it is dark out. You spent the whole day on your phone, scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, or sending photos on Snapchat. You wonder where the time went and promise yourself you will not do it again tomorrow, but you know you will.

This is what social media addiction looks like, and at the Wildcat Chronicle, we took it upon ourselves to complete a challenge: can we reduce our social media usage to below four hours per day?

We know that sounds like a lot, but if you really think about it and take a look at your settings, you will see that your screen time’s not a lot at all, and you just might exceed that on a daily basis. After you have glanced at your phone, go ahead and try our challenge.

Social media has been an issue for teenagers for a little over a decade. At first, adults would get frustrated when kids would just stare at their phones instead of interacting. Now, you can hardly get through dinner without someone going on their phone. Do not get us wrong, we are not throwing teenagers under the bus, this is just the group that we see most affected.

Recently, a class action lawsuit has been raised for the benefit of an eleven-year-old girl. The lawsuit is for the “injuries” that the eleven-year-old received from being groomed by multiple men. According to the lawsuit, “Those injuries, proximately caused by Meta’s calculated business decisions and unreasonably dangerous Instagram product, include but are not limited to, addiction, sleep deprivation, anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and extensive exploitation and abuse carried out because of and to the benefit of Defendent Meta.”

The eleven-year-old should not have been on the app at all. Yes, her presence can be explained by lying about her age because TikTok requires users to be 13 years or older, but that does not mean that a 13-year-old should be allowed to get engaged in social media to the point that it causes suicidal ideation.

In another instance, two former TikTok moderators are suing TikTok for inadequate mental health support for their constant engagement with harmful or damaging content as they sought to remove objectionable videos from the app. In both instances, the social media in question did not seek to protect the people using their apps from the potential dangers there.

Many people will say that engagement in harmful content is the user’s own fault, and that can be hard to refute. However, social media specifically gears their content towards specific age groups and teens are the most often targeted by harmful content. Apps like TikTok use very advanced algorithms that target teens’ niche interests that can potentially get them caught up more and more into negative content they wouldn’t have found out without it being recommended on their “For You” page.

Teens are quick to defend their usage of social media. After all, there are some times where there is legitimately nothing to do. Additionally, some teenagers claim that they are not addicted to their phone, however, there is a difference between dependency and addiction. While an individual cannot develop a physical dependency on social media, they can still become addicted. A dependency is a physical need for something; if you are dependent, your body will not function correctly without that substance. 

An addiction, however, is for the most part a purely mental desire. Often, people do not realize they are addicted to social media until it influences every part of their life. Teens are pressured into going on social media platforms by friends and people their age. They often fail to understand that something they find so fun to interact with can be harmful. Teens do not understand that some of the butterflies they feel in their belly when a person likes their picture or sends them a message can also be indicative of anxiety. They feel pressure to be better, to be more like the bodies on the screen, eat healthier, have clearer skin, change their life. If only they were prettier, if only they had visible abs, if only they were as smart as that person. If only…if only.

Why are we trying so hard to achieve a perfection that only exists on a screen? Why do we get addicted to feeling less? We are addicted to the perfect bodies and lives we see online and it causes eating disorders, anxiety, depression and a plethora of other mental health issues.

We surveyed 130 people and approximately 8.5% spent over 10 hours per week on Snapchat, 2.3% spent over 10 hours per week on Instagram, 13.8% spent over 10 hours per week on TikTok, and 6.2% spent over 10 hours per week on YouTube. We expect these percentages to rise as the world becomes increasingly dependent on technology, as many people choose to use social media as an escape from the often dangerous world around us.  

We are not saying to delete social media entirely, we do not honestly think that doing so is the solution. Lessen your usage, be more present in life. Turn off your phone once in a while, find other things to do than scroll on social media. You do not need to delete your online presence, but you cannot let it rule your life either. Balance is necessary. 

We as teens need to understand that the bodies on our screens should not be our aspiration. Those bodies are not real, they have been Photoshopped and filtered to the point of perfection. There is no filter in real life and no matter how much we choose to hate ourselves, we will never be different people. We are unique as we are and that is beautiful in its own right. Our bodies deserve our love and respect, not disdain. We as human beings all deserve to love ourselves, so find something that makes you happy or at the very least look at happy things when you are on social media and get off it if you feel yourself sliding into harmful and hateful patterns. Call someone if you feel like you are going to hurt yourself. We are human and we deserve to love ourselves the same way we love our family and friends. Remember: If you would not say it to your best friend, do not say it to yourself.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Suicide & Crisis Text Line: Text “REACH” to 741 741

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673