Growing up with Social Media

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Technology and social media has impacted the world in many ways both great ways and negative ways. Blogs.constantcontact.com suggests that “80% of smart phone users check social media first thing in the morning”. People crave the constant connection that social media brings to the table. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to have a phone until the 7thgrade but since my time as a junior high student, the average age when children are allowed their first cell phone is now ten years old.

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Most parents are now active on Facebook and find social media as an easy route to sharing their child’s life with loved ones.  These are quite literally growing up on the internet. Things are much different than how the used to be, when my mom wanted to show family members how I was learning they would have had to watch home videos rather than simply sending a Snapchat.

Children who grow up on the internet and who see social media everywhere are quickly becoming dependent on social media for gratification. I say children not because adults aren’t susceptible to this but because adults aren’t a part of this generation quite as much. Many social media sites have an age limit to limit how many children are on their sites, but as we all know, there are loop holes.

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Parents often times struggle with determining a “correct” age for children to have access to social media. Most social media sites do not allow anyone to use their site unless the are over the age of 13 years old.  Many of these sites are now cracking down on their users for being under the age of 13 due to a backlash of users, mainly parents, being upset that their kids are using this media.

The fear from parents not wanting their children on social media is valid. Even though social media is great in many ways, it’s also the home of bullying, phonies, and liars. How does one allow their child to use the internet if they truly never know how it is going to consume their lives?

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I am a millennial myself and I agree, I use social media way more often than I should.  A majority of my news sources come from the web, I stay in contact with my friends almost always and I check Instagram way more than I’d like to admit. Even though I do all of these things I still don’t see that as a problem, and most millennial’s like me, also wont see the problem.

Since I am on the older end of the millennial generation the the problem I see is that many people need social media to prove to them their own self worth. They care deeply about every like, retweet or mention that they get on social media almost to an unhealthy point. Role models are becoming people who don’t do anything but get a bunch of Instagram likes for being pretty and slowly they become an icon.

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According to GlobalWebIndex, “The average internet user spends more than  two hours on social media and messaging services per day, accounting for a third of their daily internet activities. Half of this time is dedicated to Facebook products alone”

I’ve been searching the internet high and low for the question as to why people need social media as much as they do and I’ve finally found an answer that I like:

 

“According to Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, most social media companies link user actions with a variable rewardsuch as the like button, to increase addictiveness. When we open our phones, we are rewarded with notifications.  When we click on these notifications, we are once again rewarded with likes, comments and messages. Variable rewards are effective because they use intermittent reinforcement, a behavioral training regimen where a prize isn’t administered every time the desired response is performed (like a slot machine). Social media companies are literally training us to obsess over their platforms. Harris says we now check our phones, on average, 150 times a day.”

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The quote above makes total sense when put into perspective, who doesn’t feel good when a lot of people like the tweet you’ve been thinking of all day? Even though we all like a good like on our social media when do we draw the line?

Many social media gurus will go as far as buying their following by purchasing “likes”. Aspiring social media influencers will do this to attempt branding themselves as someone others should follow. Personally, if that’s your thing then go for it but my issue with like buyers is that it makes young people feel as if they need that many likes as well.

Young people and maybe even some older people judge one another based upon how many likes they get on each post. When someone doesn’t achieve what they think they should be achieving they feel inadequate, hence feeling the need to waste their money on things such as robots liking their latest selfie.

 

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Social media can affect one’s thoughts on real things such as body image as well. Apps such as Airbrush and Facetune, make it easy for someone to manipulate their body to look as if they’re thinner or even add more makeup so that users can reach a certain body image standard.

“A 2011 study conducted by the University of Haifa revealed that the more time teenage girls spent on social media websites like Facebook, the greater their risk was of developing eating disorders and negative body images”

Although media is changed drastically over time the media and its correlation with eating disorders isn’t exactly new, news. “Research studies conducted as far back as the 1980s and 1990s demonstrated that the decreasing weight of fashion models, actresses, and Miss America contestants between the 1950s and 1990s contributed to an increased discrepancy between the ideal female weight and the size and proportions of the average American woman at the time.”

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How can we help all of these things? In my opinion the answer to everything is being a genuinely good person. If you demonstrate not only self love but love for the people around you in all things they wouldn’t feel the need to pretend to be something their not for the internet. People crave connection and the crave being liked.

Social media surfaces, such as Instagram are now giving users the option to limit the amount of time they spend on the app. The key to all things is encourage experiences. Leave the phone behind and try something new. Trust me, it’s a strange feeling at first but in the end its totally worth it.