Social Media Is Not the Enemy: It Is the Way We Use It

Ryan Whitman '24, Staff Writer

I recently got Instagram and spent far too much time deciding on the perfect profile picture. “I should keep it low-key,” I thought, picking a cute picture of my dog. “Maybe I should find a nice picture of me and my friends,” I told myself a few hours later. “None of these are working for me – I should go dress up and take a new one.” In the span of a day, I had rotated between a wide array of photos, never feeling confident enough to stick with one. 

There is no doubt that social media has a substantial impact on our daily lives, but arguments have been made about whether this impact is positive or negative.  Social media allows people to connect, and these connections result in a more fulfilled social life. Even so, social media also attracts those who feel the need to hide behind a screen, creating strained, superficial, or weak relationships with others. Despite the potential for connection, the truth is that social media can be dangerous if the user does not regulate their use properly.

The anxiety around social media affects us all. When we download a social media app, we are subjecting ourselves to the public eye. Even social media apps that have private profile options can be intimidating. Sometimes the pressure to accept a “follow” or “friend” request can feel immense, especially if you don’t feel comfortable with that person seeing the innermost details of your life. If you make a mistake on social media, such as acting cruel or posting an embarrassing photo, it can feel like you’re screwing up in front of the entire world.

In a survey sent out to the students of St. Luke’s School on Monday, September 19, I asked people to speak about their relationship with social media through a series of questions. One of these questions was to pick which social media sites and apps the reader uses. Instagram and Snapchat took the lead, with TikTok following close behind, likely due to their convenience for those short on time. 

One of the characteristics these platforms all have in common is the ability to scroll through short videos, follow celebrities and influencers, and spice up content with fun filters and overlays. These features make social media addicting and hard to stay away from. 

Social media is all about connection. The ability to keep tabs on the lives of your friends and family is an invaluable resource. When Facebook, one of the first social media apps, came out in 2004, this ease of use was the main selling point. Keeping in touch with people can be hard, but social media platforms make this process easy. Instead of reaching out to each individual person you wish to connect with, social media allows you to remain close with people you haven’t seen in years with the click of a button. Sometimes, you can even make close friends online without ever having physically met them.

When surveyed, the majority of students at SLS admitted they had more than three hundred combined friends on their social media accounts. This means relationships are more dispersed, with less intimacy and not as much quality. This results in superficialized and shallow friendships. 

Over half of the students surveyed confessed that they didn’t feel completely fulfilled with their social media usage, and it is not uncommon to feel drained. I often feel like social media has minimized the enjoyment of many of my friendships. Social media can bring about feelings of isolation and loneliness, even though I feel comfortable with these people in person. 

Generally, social media has succeeded in bringing people closer together – but at what cost? Social media was not the cure-all it was meant to be. Being careful online and ensuring we are putting our mental health before our social status can alleviate many of the downfalls. In the end, we have to be responsible with our social media use and understand our limits. Balancing the time spent in person with friends with the time spent scrolling on social media can result in healthier, happier connections. 

As a high schooler, I find that social media can be difficult to avoid. St. Luke’s is generally flexible with technology use, meaning students have to take responsibility for their own screen time. I started checking my screen time and setting limits for myself recently, and I have felt happier and less consumed with social media. Responsible teenagers should listen to themselves and what makes them unhappy and unhappy, bringing awareness to how to better their mental health. This is your responsibility, so take action!