Most high school students use social media platforms. They send images through Snapchat, browse profiles on Instagram, and message one another daily. Communication platforms are easily accessible and allow users to connect in these uncertain times. As in-person interactions diminish during the COVID-19 pandemic, many seek human connection through social media applications.
Social media has various benefits for students. A recent study investigated this further, reporting that fifty-nine percent of students with Internet access use social media to discuss educational topics. Social media platforms permit students to gain new information and share educational topics from multiple perspectives and backgrounds. They also enable users to improve communication skills, find others with similar interests, and share knowledge with people across the world.
High school students understand the value of social media firsthand. According to sophomore Alex, “Social media helps me communicate with friends across long distances. It shows what my friends are doing and lets us connect in positive ways. During quarantine, I couldn't see my volleyball teammates in person, but we were able to text and Snapchat through social media.
“These apps also spread information about current events I otherwise might not hear about. Whenever an important event or tragic incident occurs, I can learn from different perspectives, and better understand the impacts felt in specific communities. Overall, I enjoy social media and believe it's a large part of our generation’s social identity.”
However, social media is not a replacement for in-person interactions, and often harms mental health. In recent studies, users who spent the most time on social media platforms were found to have a substantially higher rate of depression than others. Some users substitute in-person interactions for social media, develop negative body images and low self-esteem, and experience cyberbullying. These issues lead to depression and other mental health consequences.
Although she has not personally faced these issues, Alex knows that many people struggle with online interactions. “Some teenagers bully others without showing their faces online. Social media allows them to hide behind unknown identities, spread negative comments, and hurt others without any repercussions.
“People also see other users post unrealistic images of themselves online. Countless pictures are manipulated to fit certain beauty standards, which make some feel poorly about their own physical appearance. People want to be thinner, more muscular, or change something else about themselves. The unrealistic standards on social media can reduce one’s confidence and self-esteem.”
Although these negative impacts are serious, social media dominates communication between young people, and students need to learn how to use such platforms responsibly. Overwhelmed social media users should disable their notifications and install apps to limit time spent on social media. They can also discuss these problems with parents, guidance counselors, and mental health professionals.
Social media is an essential form of communication. It spreads new information, connects those of similar interests, and allows people to interact during these challenging times. Nonetheless, users should understand the consequences such platforms may have on mental health. All students are encouraged to use social media safely and value their emotional well-being.
Caroline Miller. “Does Social Media Cause Depression?” Child Mind Institute, 10 May 2021, childmind.org/article/is-social-media-use-causing-depression/.
“Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking.” Analysis & Policy Observatory, National School Boards Association, 24 Sept. 2008, apo.org.au/node/16481.
About the Author:
Kaitlyn Donato is a high school student from Winchester, MA. In her sophomore year, Kaitlyn recognized that there were too few magazines focused on writing for and by young women, and decided to create The Alcott Youth Magazine. With the magazine, she hopes to publish inspirational writing for all young people to enjoy.