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Social media: a benefit or an addiction?

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It is impossible to walk into a room where every single person is not using their phone. Commonly, you will find people hunched over with their eyes glued to a screen, more than likely scrolling on Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. Due to the introduction of the internet and smartphones, our generation has a culture unlike any other. Social media has made it effortless for millions of people to connect around the world, and smartphones have enabled people to carry this power wherever they go. With such immediate and easy access to the world of social media, people find themselves spending an infinite amount of time on their phones. It might even be safe to assume that a majority of social media users have an addiction.

When we typically hear the word “addiction,” it is associated with alcohol and drugs; however, social media has become an addiction to the younger generation. The Pew Research Center has found that 92% of teens go online every day, with 24% saying they go online “almost constantly. According to Common Sense Media, 50% of teens say they feel addicted to their phone. A way for the addiction to start is through receiving “likes,” which activates the same feeling of eating chocolate or winning money. Getting notifications releases dopamine, thus beginning the practice of spending more time on social media so that the user constantly receives that high. Users want to be bombarded with high numbers of likes and comments complimenting their lifestyle. Some teens even go as far to delete posts that do not receive a certain amount of likes, just to repost at another time when people are more likely to be on the app to like the post. This craving for likes and attention is a degrading practice. Social media should not be a platform for the basis of building self-confidence.

Social media creates a different reality for most people. On the internet, we can portray ourselves and our lives greater than it actually is. Social media causes users to compare themselves to one another, which can lead to low self-esteem issues. Teens wind up on the explore page of Instagram staring at a selfie that they associate with perfection, leading them to question their self-worth. They agonize over what photos to post so that it goes along with the look and feel of their feed. A Common Sense survey called Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image found that from teenage girls, 35% worry about people tagging them in unattractive photos, 27% stress about how they look in posted photos, and 22% feel bad about themselves if their photos were ignored. Social media has led people to care about things that do not have real substantial meaning. The way a feed looks or the number of likes is pointless in the bigger picture, but to many teens, they associate happiness with these factors.

The power to connect with people around the world is at the tip of our fingers, but social media is not a perfect substitute for relationships in real life. Yes, you may have hundreds of friends online, but the friends you have outside of social media and the time spent with them are much more valuable. Having a conversation through your direct messages just does not compare to having a face-to-face conversation with another human being. Texting on any app is void of emotions, body language, and physical connections. To make emotions heard, the user may spice up their messages through exclamation points or emojis, but even all that cannot replicate the sensory experience of real-life relationships.

Social media has given people many benefits, but should also be noted for its significant consequences. For a majority of teenagers, social media has become a part of everyday life and is difficult to avoid. While it may be hard to completely rid oneself of their social media accounts, it is important to use them in moderation and to not get too attached to the immediate gratification it provides. Going past moderation and entering the zone of excess and addiction is a toxic way to live your life.

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