Jul 14, 2017

Use Social Media to Make the World a Better Place

By Lori Draz and Jacqueline Fletcher

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Jacqueline Fletcher, a 17-year-old rising senior at Trinity Hall. As the schools are on summer break and classmates go in many directions, teens often rely on social media to stay in touch with each over the weeks of summer. Like most teens her age, Jacqueline uses social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. She always tries to evoke a smile and a laugh from everyone she meets, but she is keenly aware that these platforms are not always so positive. Negative consequences like cyberbullying or bragging frustrate and disappoint her and make her consider the effects it has on others. Jacqueline wants everyone to know that they are not alone in what they are feeling and makes a call for honesty in posts. Here is her story:

All it takes is a filter and selective filming skills on a smartphone to transform a small gathering in a dark basement into an exclusive, luxurious party with the intention of proving your apparent satisfaction with your social life to hundreds of friends and followers. But the social media user should consider the unforeseen consequences, like shattered confidences and sadness, for viewers on the other side of the screen who were perhaps not invited. People only choose to post when it portrays them in a favorable light; you’ll never see a post of someone upset on his or her worst day. Often, I view posts from the same event I just attended and think, “There is no way we were at the same place. My experience was nothing like this.” I am not alone in this feeling; in fact, most of social media is facade.

Every teenager I know possesses at least one form of social media (if not two, three, four, or more). Each of these interfaces floods our screens and minds with notifications that beg for attention. A simple swipe, tap, or click sends us into a digital abyss; one moment, I am checking the weather and 30 minutes later, I am deep into the archives of an Instagram page. Essentially, the digital world is inescapable for us as teenagers. This constant digital presence engenders a perfect breeding ground for a whole host of behaviors that range from good-intentioned activities like wishing someone a happy birthday, to malicious actions like trolling and bullying.

While just scrolling through our feeds can be enough to make us feel inferior, the added presence of cyberbullying is almost too much to bear. Since people only show their best – and often an “enhanced best” – the messages we see can be troubling. It’s hard not to compare other teens’ activities, appearances, accomplishments, and friends to our own. Of course, everyone wants to convey a sense of confidence through his or her social media profile; however, when teens like me see 20 posts from their peers having fun or taking an extravagant trip while we are working or sitting at home, it weighs heavily on our minds.

Now, these criticisms of social media and their effects on teenagers may seem like yet another first-world problem that this new generation just needs to cope with. While many adults advocate against their children’s use of social media, it is not easy to delete social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Despite the sometimes adverse effects, these platforms provide many of our only connections to a world that is larger than our immediate community, and these connections are the redeeming qualities that earn a place for these apps on most phones. Social media keeps connections between friends who would have otherwise drifted away years ago and serves as a platform to express ourselves and our ideas. It can furthermore unite unlikely partners, facilitate new opportunities, and sustain momentum behind a nationwide movement. Because of social media, I beneficially connected with movements, people, and companies I never would have otherwise encountered. Society as a whole – and teenagers especially – adapted to the burgeoning social networking industry, and now that we have, there is no going back.

Since social media is here to stay, that leaves only one option: fix the flaw that is detrimental to countless teens and adults. We should all use platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat in the best possible way to make the world a better place. We must use these services responsibly in ways that promote love and peace. This can be a difficult task, given the many negative presences that lurk on the internet, but using social media responsibly can be as easy as being comfortable and happy with ourselves. Let’s forget the fake nature of social media and accept ourselves and our flaws as we consciously post positive but also realistic material. It may be a bit idealistic, but if we demonstrated this behavior toward our two, three, or even five hundred friends and followers across all social media platforms and they adopted that same mindset, just imagine the “viral” effect from which we all could benefit.