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Dark side of social media

AP – It’s dangerous. It’s addictive. Get off your phone.

Kids constantly hear about the downsides of social media from the adults in their lives, often in the form of dire warnings and commands. But these adults did not grow up with social media themselves.

They didn’t get a phone handed to them as toddlers, just to keep them quiet in a restaurant. They didn’t join TikTok’s predecessor Musica.ly and do silly dances before they even learned to read. They didn’t have their schools shut down in a global pandemic, their connections to friends and peers relegated to phone and computer screens.

Kids coming of age with social media are forging ahead in a whole new world. And now that they are getting older, they have some advice for their younger peers.

Here’s what they wish they knew when they first got online.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO SHARE EVERYTHING

A freshman at Vanderbilt University Bao Le said, “It’s so easy to look at your friends’ stories and feel this feeling of FOMO, of missing out and comparing yourself, like: ‘Oh, my friend just got a new car.’ It’s like this overwhelming sense of comparison. But the things that people post on social media, it’s just the highlight reel, like the one per cent of their life that they want to showcase to other people.”

PHOTO: ENVATO
ABOVE & BELOW: Sienna Keene, 17; Bao Le, 18, and Lea Nepomuceno, 18. PHOTO: AP
PHOTO: AP
PHOTO: AP
ABOVE & BELOW: Mikael Makonnen, 18; Nour Mahmoud, 21; and Ava Havidic, 18. PHOTO: AP
PHOTO: AP
PHOTO: AP

DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY

“My main point of advice would be not to take it too seriously. Be yourself.”

University of Maryland senior Doreen Malata shared that what she was exposed to as “a 12-year-old was much more limited than what is accessible to 12–year-olds nowadays”.

“Younger kids want to be who they idolise. And when the TikTok stars or the social media stars are 20, 18, 16, they’re going to want to be like them. You’re getting younger kids that are now obsessing over products and brands, and it’s just getting really hard to be young.

And it shouldn’t be really hard to be young,” she said.

The 22-year-old advised the young to enjoy childhood and to not rush growing up.

“It’s okay to be 12. It’s okay to be young.”

HOW ADDICTIVE IT IS

It seems like it would be really easy to just put your phone down and stop scrolling. But it is not.

High school senior Sienna Keene said if she could go back in time and advise her younger self, it would be “to tell my parents to set up time limits for me – even though I would have never said that when I was starting social media”.

Looking to the future, Keene said she would “personally would not let my kid have TikTok”.

“It’s so addictive.”

TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA DETOX

Styles, fashion models. Boom! There are so much contents in social media.

“It really impacts you heavily when you first get it, this feeling of: ‘How do they do it? How do they look like this? How do they get clothes like that?’ When you’re new to social media, these trends can overtake you,” Ava Havidic, 18, told The Associated Press.

“I started to use screentime (monitoring) on my phone and limit the amount of time I am on social media. I’ve been taking phone detoxes. On weekends, I’ll take a social media detox for 10 hours or the majority of the day. I’ll hang out with my family, ride my bike. I only have notifications for my messages and workspaces. I don’t have any notifications on for social media apps.”

YOU ARE THE ONE IN CONTROL

“Often I hear the term ‘social media user’, but I felt like I was being used by social media. I had this routine of scrolling mindlessly through TikTok, just scrolling and scrolling and comparing myself to other people. It ultimately really affected my body image, my perception of what was considered beautiful or accepted into society,” university freshman Lea Nepomuceno said.

“You can use social media to amplify your passions, but in order to do that you need to do a lot of work outside of social media, to discover who you are as a person, what matters to you and what contributions you can make to the world.”

IT’S A WASTE OF TIME

American University freshman Mikael Makonnen cautioned against using it at all calling social media platforms “a waste of time”.

“You’re just having conversations about pointless things, random pop culture stuff. You’re not really getting anything out of it, just short-term satisfaction. It’s kind of meaningless. I know this is kind of outlandish, but I feel like there should be some sort of age limit because I don’t think children should be on the Internet.”

A LOT OF IT IS NOT REAL

For Nour Mahmoud, 21, a junior at Virginia Commonwealth University, social media should be used as a learning tool to get information about different things.

“A lot of people make their life artificial so that they’re perceived in a certain way. There’s so much information, and you’re able to learn so much about different things. I wish people had that outlook rather than the whole idea of other people viewing you and having to be seen a certain way.”

IT’S OK TO PUT UP BOUNDARIES

You can’t scroll on TikTok or look through Instagram without seeing supermodels who have edited their photos and are promoting unrealistic beauty standards.

Eighteen-year-old freshman Madeleine Maestre said she does not want to “see girls who pretend to be fitness influencers but are just promoting an eating disorder like “body checking” on my feed”.

“That is one thing I wish I knew when I started: that it is okay to not want to look at that or want to consume it. It’s okay to protect yourself and your own body image. Another thing I wish I knew is that not everyone on social media is your friend. When you are young and impressionable and people are reaching out to you, just know that not everyone is as friendly as you think they are.”

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