Deleting photos if they don’t get the right amount of likes in time. Dinner with friends just to get pictures. Endless filters to perfect the parts of us society has told us are “flawed.”
The majority of teenagers are guilty of at least some of these social norms. Authenticity and originality have lost their value to imitation and posed beauty. Social media is the bittersweet child of the 21st century that our generation, labeled the iGeneration, has taken the brunt of.
This issue was recently brought up on a new scale when Essena O’Neill, an 18 year old from Australia with half a million followers on Instagram, deleted 2,000 of her Instagram pictures. She kept less than 100 photos and on these photos, she altered the captions to something she called “real captions.”
Along with the deleted Instagram posts, she also posted a video on her popular YouTube channel explaining why she did this.
“Companies will send you bulletpoints of what you need to say, how you need to stand, what time of the day to post…If you do not think social media is a business, you are deluding yourself…”
Social media has become a market far greater than any other in our generation. Sophomore Louisa Blakeley shared her opinion on Essena O’Neill’s departure from Instagram: “I get what she did because if someone had a really bad experience, it was the right thing to do … [Society] is definitely getting to an extreme with social media pressure and cyberbullying.”
We spend hours of the day scrolling through blaring screens, advertising not just products but the ideal body image. They produce a “norm” for the way we should be thinking. This is incredibly detrimental to teenagers, who are supposed to be spending their adolescent years learning about themselves. How exactly are they supposed to do that when every time they switch on some form of social media, there is a new trend they are expected to follow staring back at them?
Junior Jason DeBrito believes social media has a strong impact on our emotions and personalities. He said, “Social media can morph the way we think about ourselves…we have a tendency to want to look pretty and act happy for the sake of what others will think of us.”
Social media is not only known for providing society’s warped view on ideal body image, but also for its effect on the mentality of individuals. A study by the University of Queensland found that when individuals did not post on Facebook for two days, their well-being was negatively impacted. Words like “exclusion” and “loss of control” were used to describe their feelings. Our society has placed too much of our own self-value on social media. We have all experienced the gut-wrenching sensation that we are being left out when opening up a friend’s snapchat story.
We are not completely to blame though. Social media has become an addictive drug that we cannot seem to stop taking. It turns into an obsession, too, with apps being checked every five minutes just to ensure that we didn’t “miss” anything. One of the most moving videos of the decade discusses just this.
Gary Turk, a filmmaker and spoken-word artist, made an award-winning video titled “Look Up.” The message he intended to create is to step away from social media in order to better our relationship with those around us. “So look up from your phone, shut down the display…just one real connection is all it can take.”
This seems impossible to do in a society that is so directly focused on social media, but it is essential for our well-being. This is not only for the sake of our generation’s mental health today, but for our continuous personal development without such a powerful and often destructive influence.