By Kayla Lemens, Editor in Chief
It’s now been three months since I last opened Snapchat.
Like the one billion active monthly members that reportedly use six major social media networking sites, I am captivated by social media for the usual reasons. These apps preoccupy my thoughts and influence my actions, but also intrigue me in such a way where I am forced to question how and why.
Why do I care so much to send a random photo of my face to 60 different people so an emoji of fire can appear by their name? How come I can feel my phone vibrate in my pocket when it’s not there? When will I no longer be so distracted with the thought of a notification?
That is why I decided to remove all social media from my phone back in June. It’s also why I’ve come to believe that most teens need to better regulate their social media usage.
Initially, I found leaving social media so incredibly difficult, not knowing what is going on in everyone’s life. But now I am refreshed by not feeling the pressure to succumb to social normalities, as well as the influence from outside forces. I also find it amazing that I have been able to grow closer with the people around me while in the absence of social media.
I tend to find myself searching for answers so often that I make my way to books that talk about addictions, and the side effects one can face from testing that addiction. Institutions, such as Harvard, are releasing studies which compare the excessive use of social media to crippling drug addictions.
Although professionals continue to debate this topic, I notice I learn the most about social media when I talk to those who grew up without it. The adults with whom I discuss social media all ask the same questions: “What’s so appealing about sending an unattractive photo of your face to strangers?” and “Why don’t you just call them rather than putting words over that photo of yourself?”
I could not recognize the insignificance of being on social media until I realized the reason I became involved was due to the pressure put upon me from my peers.
The disconnect that teenagers have from each other because they spend all their time and effort on social media is shocking. Social media isolates and warps relationships through screens. Not only do we pressure each other to brag about our lives, but we also highlight the insecurities of others by hiding our own.
The reason I am so intrigued by social media is that it was developed to connect with and deepen relationships with those around us, regardless of distance. If that’s the purpose of social media, why would it have the opposite effect on me and so many others?
Yes, it has benefits because it connects people around the world, yet it drives apart those who live next to each other.
Social media is being abused, and is slowly taking over and destroying the lives of youth as they fall victim to their screens. This important issue is being ignored, as the popularity of social media continues to grow.
“The average teenager between the ages of 15-18 spend an average of seven-and-a-half hours a day on their phone,” Apple reports.
At first, this statistic struck me as unusual. How can a teenager spend nearly eight hours on their phone if there are only 24 hours in a day? That is when I became curious how the students at the West Bend High Schools would compare to this statistic.
Based on an informal survey I conducted, I found that, on average, a WBHS teenager spends between 4 and 5 hours on their phone every day.
71.2% of students spend more than half their time on social media. This lines up with the statistics shared by Apple.
So what’s the big issue?
With the arising amount of social media platforms, today’s teens are spending an extended amount of time on their phones. This is ultimately beginning to ruin the opportunities to develop strong relationships with each other.
The premise of society is based off of the idea of socialization, but to what extent should we let social media intervene? Where should we limit the use of social media? When is too much too much?
Now, being three months into my social media cleanse, I can say I learned a lot. It never occurred to me that I could be a functioning member of society without my face being sent to all my friends via Snapchat.
Social media does have benefits, communication being number one, but I learned that communication is still achievable without it. There are alternate ways to keep in touch with the people around you. Phone calls are now what I am known for! My daily personal screen time now is below two hours, which is five hours less than when I initially took a break.
This is an experiment that everyone should try.
As Ferris Bueller famously said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.”
(Top image is from Today Testing, used with permission via Wikimedia Commons.)
The Current welcomes submissions from all students, faculty, administrators and community members, but reserves the right to edit for length or content. Any column, editorial or letter to the editor expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the entire staff.