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The Gillnetter

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The case for deleting social media

Ava Orlando
Ava Orlando depicts the casting aside of social media into the metaphorical garbage.

Social interaction and human connection are essential to being a functioning member of society. If we don’t connect with each other, we will leap into loneliness, dive into depression, and spring into stress. Some people like more social connection and some people like less, but we all need at least some—it’s no wonder that one of the most terrible carceral punishments is solitary confinement. Given the benefits of being connected to one another, you would think that the tangled web of virtual social media would be the perfect thing to keep us naturally social beings satisfied. Instead, the opposite is true. 

Ever since the creation of modern social media as we know it in the early 2000s, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, SnapChat, and Instagram have skyrocketed in popularity with over 80% of Americans saying that they are currently active on those sites (Statista). The original purpose of these photo and video sharing sites was to allow people to stay connected with each other when physical interaction was not an option. It was never meant to replace real life interaction, but instead allow people who rarely got to see their friends to keep in touch.

 Up until the COVID-19 pandemic, social media had not completely replaced real life interaction, but it was well on its way. The internet has evolved a lot in the 30+ years it has existed and pre-Coronavirus, the internet was a place where people shared ideas and formed communities. However, as the world entered the seemingly eternal winter of COVID and people were not allowed to see each other’s real faces, they had to turn to the internet as the sole instrument of socialization.

As the ice melted and COVID ended, people were able to see each other and hang out, but the world wide virus had created a generation of kids trapped in hibernation who were accustomed to social media and virtual friendship. Average screen time among kids rose by almost 2 hours from pre-pandemic to post pandemic (Exploding Topics). The combination of the pandemic and social media has created a group of kids who are scared to experience each other.

 I urge you to brush off the ice and delete your social media. Kids should be forming lifelong bonds, exercising, learning in their free time: Kids should not be wasting away looking at other people having fun that they aren’t a part of. I am aware that the idea of deleting these apps seems almost impossible. To many students, the seemingly endless and mind-numbing routine during the school year is waking up, going to school, coming home, doing homework, with an extracurricular activity like a sport or after school club mixed in there. Most of us choose to invest the remainder of our free time into time spent on our phone. It seems like a good way to decompress and relax during downtime, but these apps are designed to do more than provide background activity.

These apps use sexual imagery, easy laughs, mouth-watering pictures of food and brutally violent sights to generate dopamine, a chemical that brings short term happiness but also creates addiction and a scientifically proven link to anxiety and depression. These apps are a carefully concocted drug meant to keep young people hooked. Media companies engineer their apps to be addictive, at the expense of the health and well-being of their user base. Suicide and self harm rates have risen in teens, and these tragedies are inextricably linked to online screen time (National Library of Medicine).

A combination of factors contribute to this, such as cyberbullying and unrealistic expectations in beauty standards. Kids are constantly being bombarded with images of people that are hyper-attractive and modified by virtual effects that make kids feel self conscious, a feeling that is enforced by people saying and doing ruthlessly mean things as a result of the limitless boundaries that certain websites have. Younger people starve and hurt themselves in order to maintain an appearance that is impossible to uphold. Many people my age who are beautiful, inside and out, want to change their naturally beautiful selves because of the unrealistic images they’re fed.

Many of us may not be aware that we are participating in or being hurt by this terrible cycle, but many of us are. You may have had experiences similar to ones I have had, where my goal for the day was to be productive and get school work done or have fun with my friends, but instead the appeal of dopamine and the hope that the next thing I scroll to on my phone will generate me more happiness than the thing before traps me. Too many of my days have been wasted on brain rot. I find myself getting sucked in for hours upon hours and all of a sudden a day which could have allowed me to do something with myself resulted in a waste. Almost every night, I stay up later than I should in bed, depriving myself of sleep for absolutely no reason. These apps take up more time than they should, and the drug of social media will continue to poison our easily susceptible minds until rehab is not an option. You should take action and delete these apps sooner rather than later.

As someone who has recently deleted many of my social media accounts and apps, I have found that I have so much more time. My average screen time dropped almost 3 hours and I have taken that time to spend it with my family. My sibling is teaching me how to crochet, my mom is teaching me how to cook, my dad and I have been doing more chores around the house, I am learning a new instrument, and my grades have gotten a boost from the additional time I have to study. Just by doing the simple act of getting rid of Instagram, Tiktok, and Youtube I feel significantly more productive, more efficient, and plain and simply more happy.

 I talk about this magical boost in quality of life as if it is so easy. I still have not been able to find the willpower to delete SnapChat, the app I spend the most time on, further proving social media’s addictive influence. My excuse that I have given myself is that “I am just using it to communicate with my friends”, or “I need it for sports”, but after talking with one of my friends who doesn’t have the app, I realized that if I really need to communicate with someone for something school or sports related or one of my friends needs to tell me something, there are other ways of using our phones that don’t involve sending pictures of the wall back and forth or maintaining meaningless streaks for hundreds of days.

I understand the appeal of having social media when you are an adult in order to stay connected with people that you used to know or when you don’t have an outlet for socialization, but why would you send a DM to a person you could just look at and talk to? When we are young and going to school we should be doing activities we love in an environment with interesting people, we should all just look up from our phones and experience each other.

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    christy uhrowczikFeb 28, 2024 at 8:18 pm

    Henry, this is expressed so wonderfully and meaningfully! You are wise beyond your 9th grade years. Most importantly, I’m so happy you carry this sentiment with you and live your life to the fullest. A great concept I hope others follow. Bravo! Tia