In the contemporary world, social media has a crucial impact on youth. For most people from a different generation, the need to post a new selfie or the idea of 'checking in' may seem strange, but for modern teenagers online communication through 'likes' and comments provides establishment of their self-esteem as well as acceptance in the community. Nevertheless, virtual life forces youngsters to compare themselves with other people's photos online, which, in turn, provokes the development of negative thoughts and dissatisfaction. Thus, due to the constant use of social media websites and applications, young people are more likely to make friends online rather than establish real-life relationships. At the same time, social media has a destructive effect on the body image of youngsters, especially young girls, who evaluate their appearance in accordance to the edited photos of popular people they follow on Instagram or Snapchat. Moreover, as social media networks offer an improved version of reality, they influence youngsters' self-determination. In this respect, certain measures should be taken in order to reduce adverse effects of social media on the development of young people. Therefore, being an integral part of teenagers life, social media negatively affects their self-esteem, promoting anxiety, depression, loneliness, and deterioration of relationships in real life.
Instagram and its effects
Social media, specifically Instagram, has a negative effect on teenagers body image. The application has more than 150 million users, more than 39% of whom are 16-24 years old (Instagram Ranked Worst). It mainly focuses on posting pictures of daily life, following other users accounts, writing comments, and sending likes to photos. It allows users to communicate through pictures or videos documenting their lives. Moreover, Instagram has a number of 'filters' to make different manipulations with photos. In this respect, a person can create an impression that his or her life as well as appearance is much better than in reality. While this social networking site supports the establishment of an instant social and emotional connection between teenagers, allowing them post and send their photos, many youngsters expect to gain social acceptance through Instagram. K. Nola Mokeyane states that media has had an increasingly negative impact on the way teenage girls measure their personal image and beauty standards. Relying on these pictures, teenagers judge their appearance and body according to the edited photos of others they see online. The greatest part of Instagram users are females, who are extremely sensitive to developing eating disorders while trying to achieve the body shape they have seen on the picture of either a celebrity or a fiend they follow. Being impacted by outside pressure, teenage girls attempt to demonstrate unrealistic photos of their body on social media. Following these ideas, young women feel obliged to conform to the idea of an ideal body (Mokeyane). Therefore, social media, such as Instagram, reinforces a negative body image, especially in teen girls, who are considered the most vulnerable group.
Furthermore, Instagram evokes a strong feeling of loneliness and anxiety in young people. According to Amanda MacMillan, Instagram was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Indeed, young adults are afraid of becoming social outsiders. Moreover, studies show that teenagers who spend much time a day on social websites and applications are more likely to become psychologically unstable (MacMillan). Watching other people having a full life and enjoying celebrations or nights out, young people feel they lack all the joys of life. As a result, it makes teenagers compare their life to those whom they follow on social media. Moreover, posts on social media networks affect self-esteem of its users, specifically young girls, who are more vulnerable to social judgment than boys (Edgington 23). As it is an image-focused platform, Instagram may heighten the feeling of inadequacy of the photos youngsters see. For example, if a public figure or celebrity shares photos of his or her daily life from luxury places or exotic locations, it makes teenagers question their connection with the reality. As a result, the image of ideal life lowers self-esteem of young people and can even cause a mental health crisis (Edgington 36). Therefore, Instagram negatively impacts the psychological state of teenagers, evoking such feelings as loneliness, anxiety, and sadness.
Social media forces teenagers to evaluate their body
Images of thin women that teenagers see online force them to reevaluate their body and lower their self-esteem. Not only Instagram but also other social media networks such as Facebook affect the way young people perceive themselves. MacMillan states that Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies arent good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look perfect. Indeed, posting of ideal body images makes young women question their appearance, which, in turn, influences their self-esteem and promotes the loss of self-confidence (Woollaston). In this respect, girls try to lose weight at young age when their bodies are not physically developed yet. This particular practice may lead to dangerous health consequences. Moreover, not only young girls but also boys feel pressure of social media concerning their body. For instance, watching photos of masculine celebrities or influencers, young men feel a necessity to strengthen their muscles. Although keeping oneself in a good physical shape is beneficial, sometimes it may involve taking extreme measures such as the use of various chemicals or stimulants.
Speaking about the impact of social media on teenagers' judgments about their body, social websites and applications may have a negative effect on the health of young people. While people predominantly share positive aspects of their life online, teenagers desperately attempt to fit the world where everything looks perfect. Hence, being in a continuous pursuit of social approval, teenagers suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia (Fitzgerald). Watching images of people in the ideal physical shape, teenagers torture themselves with different kinds of diets, thus ruining their health (Fitzgerald; Edgington 67). At the same time, it has been scientifically proven that social media websites, for example Instagram or Snapchat, are likely to cause depression, especially in young women (Edgington 68). Depression, in turn, is commonly linked with obesity, which is a serious eating disorder (Fitzgerald). As a result, suffering from particular diseases, teenagers feel unhappy with their appearance. Although body image may change during lifetime, sometimes it is hard for young people to perceive themselves the way they are. Therefore, youngsters who are satisfied with their body and appearance are more likely to have a balanced attitude to eating, good mental health, and high self-esteem.
The necessity of being connected to friends online
Numerous 'likes' or comments to pictures make youngsters feel important as well as connected to friends online. Instead of talking with peers or spending time with friends in real life, youngsters prefer texting or commenting other users' posts. For some teenagers, life without social media deems impossible. Fitzgerald claims that people who are anxious and socially insecure use Facebook more... probably because those who are anxious find it easier to communicate via social media than face-to-face. Thus, the importance of staying connected through Blogging, Twitter, or Facebook outweighs the need in real-life interaction. Teenagers spend much time communicating with others online through social media networks and other applications. Indeed, instead of meeting new people, studying, or participating in different activities, young people become more linked to online reality. As a result, true friendship is undervalued. To make a new friend online, one only needs to comment a post or send several 'likes' to photos. This improved version of reality forces teenagers to maintain relations with such people in order to increase the number of friends and thus boost their self-esteem (Edgington 110). In this regard, using social websites or applications has adverse effects on young people as it deprives them of adventures and joys of real life.
At the same time, relationships a user has within social media networks influence his or her real relationships. Social media networking can be regarded as a small part of the world that makes it possible to reach friends and relatives anywhere anytime. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish social media links and real-life relationships. Many teenagers are engaged in a relentless pursuit of the goal of making more friends or becoming more socially popular. Those who have a small number of friends online are considered less popular than those users who have many contacts. However, virtual friends cannot provide benefits of real-life relationships such as support or trust. Eventually, teenagers who attempt to make relationships online spend less time and effort to construct real and meaningful connections. Thus, replacing real-life relationships by online ones, young people try to compensate emptiness they experience in their real life. In fact, several cases of mental disorders such as depression or addictions can originate from communication with online friends on such social media sites as Facebook (Edgington 121). Thus, the necessity of being connected to friends online has a harmful effect on teenagers real-life relationships as well as psychological well-being.
Social media influence popularity rates
Social media has a great impact on popularity, especially among teenage girls. Indeed, the primary target of uploading a photo on Instagram or Facebook becomes the number of comments or likes it will ultimately receive. As a result, teenagers' self-esteem becomes profoundly influenced. The most vulnerable group is teenage girls, who frequently undergo difficulties at this age (Woollaston). Young females feel the need of posting a 'selfie' photo or editing their images before posting them online on a constant basis to keep their audience interested (Woollaston). Hence, the desire to be popular on social media compensates the lack of attention in real life (Edgington 34). While the primary target of young girls is to receive a higher number of followers or friends, they tend to feel less confident about themselves and their physical characteristics when experiencing face-to-face interactions. Due to the lack of control and power in real life, teenagers aim for self-assertion through comments and 'likes' online (Edgington 37). In this respect, the question of popularity is tightly linked to the number of followers, friends, and feedbacks a user receives on a certain social media website or application. Thus, social media's impact on popularity is great as it helps teenagers to strengthen their self-esteem.
Impact of one kind of opinion
Being exposed to wrong messages and an edited reality, teenagers' identity becomes affected by one kind of opinion, which also adversely impacts their self-esteem. In their study, Kathleen Clarke-Pearson and Gwenn S. OKeefe claim that young adults are very sensitive to the pressure of social media, viewing it as a credible source of information. Moreover, being effected by one kind of judgment, teenagers are subjected to a number of risks, including cyberbullying and sexting (Clarke-Pearson and OKeefe 802; Houck et al. 276). Cyberbullies use social media networks to their advantage, making young adults do certain things by threatening them. For example, cyberbullies may force a teenager to skip classes or commit some misdeed. This type of other people's opinion negatively affects vulnerable mind of teenagers. According to Clarke-Pearson and OKeefe, cyberbullying may have very severe outcomes because those who conduct this violent behavior may say youngsters to kill themselves (803). While teenagers can be easily exposed to such messages, the danger of cyberbullying is evident. Sexting is one more threatening practice that becomes possible via social media. Spending hours online, young girls and boys may receive sext, which, in turn, not only impacts their self-esteem but can also lead to dangerous consequences (Houck et al. 279). For example, those teenagers who receive or forward photos or messages with sexual content through social websites or applications do not realize possible outcomes of such behavior. Hence, Clarke-Pearson and OKeefe claim that sexting may lead to teenagers' poor reputation, lack of confidence, and emotional instability (803).
One kind opinion produces many negative psychosocial outcomes, including even suicide (Clarke-Pearson and OKeefe 801). While teenagers use social media to attract attention, their self-esteem as well as dignity may be undermined by cyberharassment or cyberbullying (Houck et al 278). Being intentionally and continuously subjected to threats, harassment or humiliation online by other young adults, teenagers' psychic health can be damaged. Thus, victims of cyberbullying are two times more likely to commit a suicide than those who have not been exposed to such violent behavior (Clarke-Pearson and OKeefe 802). Furthermore, Internet offenders evoke the feelings of loneliness and isolation in teenagers with preexisting emotional stress factors (Houck et al. 279). While youngsters with unstable mental health greatly rely on other people's opinion, they can easily follow the instructions of a bully. At the same time, for teenagers who struggle against issues related to self-esteem and isolation, filming their suicide might be a means to draw more attention. In this respect, the desire to be noticed via social media can force teenagers to commit terrible deeds, which may even threaten their life.
Possible solutions to the problem
To prevent the negative effects of social media on teenagers' self-esteem, both parents and teachers should establish a set of rules to support their normal development. Thus, it has become a necessity to make breaks from using technology in order to secure childrens health. While teenagers may spend hours chatting with their friends online or reading numerous posts or comments, parents should control their usage of social media (Edgington 163). Moreover, parents should manage not only the time their children spend online but also people they interact with in order to prevent cyberbullying or sexting. It is not necessary to monitor every child's step. However, parents should encourage him or her to follow or read somebody who is inspiring. For example, instead of comparing oneself to the photoshopped image of a popular celebrity, a teenager might consider following people whose purpose is to encourage a person and increase motivation (Edgington 165). In this respect, parents have a significant role in controlling teenagers' access to social media. Furthermore, teachers can also support young adults by reducing the negative impacts of social media overuse. Hence, students should always remember that they do not see the whole picture of what they are offered on a certain website or application. Realization of the fact that there is no perfect life and every person faces challenges may prevent teenagers from making serious mistakes in real life.
At the same time, the authorities can decrease the harmful effects of social media on teenagers by taking special measures. According to the Royal Society report, safe social media use should be studied in educational institutions (MacMillan). In this respect, teachers and professors who work with young people should be trained in digital and social media to protect teenagers from potential risks. At the same time, it is important to conduct more surveys on the effects of social media on youngsters self-esteem. According to a research by the Royal Society for Public Health, Social media isnt going away soon, nor should it. We must be ready to nurture the innovation that the future holds (Instagram Ranked Worst 5). Thus, young adults have to be empowered to use social networks without violation of their mental health and well-being.
Social media has a significant importance to young adults. While young people place high value on comments, 'likes', followers, and feedbacks they receive on social media, they become dependent on other people's opinions about them. Being disconnected from their friends online or receiving poor feedbacks or low rates can make teenagers feel anxious, lower their self-esteem and even lead to depression. Moreover, watching photos of other people's perfect life and appearance, teenagers tend to lose confidence in themselves and their body. Being engaged in a continuous pursuit of popularity, young adults may face not only socialization problems but also serious physical and mental disorders. In order to reduce negative effects and prevent potential risks of social media, parents, teachers, and authorities should take certain measures.