Photo by Vladimir Fedotov on Unsplash

By M.J. Darling

Ah, teenage hood. It can be one of the best or worst times in one’s life. The pressures to fit in, find your clique and be popular already make adolescents’ lives difficult enough. But, with the added pressures of the digital age, teens’ lives have become ten times harder. Cell phones serve as a gate into an entirely new realm for teenagers: a realm where you can bully kids anonymously, change the way you look with the click of a button, and share photos with your entire grade in an instant. This is the realm of social media.

Social media reinforces the pressure to be “perfect,” contributing to our envy for other people’s lives and disdain for our own. The worst part is, teens (in any era, really) don’t know how to properly cope with these emotions.

As I said before, social media has only made lives harder for teenagers. Today’s teens seem to skip right over the awkward phase of acne, braces and frizzy hair and move straight to mature clothes, full faces of makeup and stylish hairdos. Social media has created this idea that you have to look perfect; that you are not allowed to be human. But, with the rise of photoshop and filters, a person can easily alter their looks. Teenagers do not always realize that most of the influencers they see online do not look the same in real life, and they feel pressured to live up to these illusions: which brings me to my next point.

Social media creates a fantasy world. People only highlight their best moments online: their vacation to Europe, a fancy meal, or a trip to Disneyland, for example. Behind the smiles, we do not know what happens in people’s personal lives. No one is going to showcase their fights, anxieties, or financial troubles. Photos are only surface deep, and behind the smiles, there is usually much more happening. When teens believe in everything that they see on social media, they fall into a trap. This becomes especially true when coupled with the fact that many influencers fake trips in order to get free stuff. In reality, social media is a fantasy world where people post the best parts of their lives and fake the rest. 

Further, before social media existed, no one knew if you were not invited to a gathering. News of parties spread by word of mouth, and it was up to you to believe that news or not. Nowadays, however, everyone posts everything on social media. For teens who just want to feel like they belong, a Snapchat story of your friends hanging out without you feels like a stab to the heart. Let’s say your friend said she was busy so she couldn’t hang out with you, but then you see an Instagram post of her at the mall with someone else. That’s a punch to the gut. It is bad enough to feel unwanted; and social media, which gives us access to our friends’ lives 24/7, only amplifies those feelings of loneliness. 

Lastly, most teenagers are not equipped to handle their emotions and cope with life. In fact, most people have this problem: not just teens. The expression “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” comes to mind as something social media users need to hear these days because, let’s face it, some words cut deep. Social media has only made this issue worse too, giving bullies a screen to hide behind. When teens who were not taught to handle their negative emotions are faced with cyberbullying, it creates a recipe for disaster. Emotions are supposed to help you navigate the world, not destroy you. We need to equip teens with the tools they need for real-life — and while what we see on social media is not always “real”, the emotions that we feel as a result of what we consume are not imagined. 

I hope this article helps you or someone you know cope with negativity on social media. Being a teenager is difficult, but you can do it! In reality, your teens only take up a fraction of your life. When you look back, you will be proud that you pushed through it. You are not alone, you are loved, and you are worth more than gold. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and while it may seem dim at times, you will get there. Just keep going. 

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or has suicidal thoughts and tendencies, reach the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255.

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