Social media; the students' distractor
Fifty-eight times is how many times you check your phone a day for a notification. In my last year of high school, the pressure is on. The pressure to get that 99.95 atar, the pressure of impressing my family, friends, and everyone who calls you on the 14th of December, asking how you went! I find myself procrastinating due to this pressure and the never-ending stream of homework, alignments, and work. I find my phone calling me towards it, open it, and go on Twitter to see how the Amber Heard Vs. Johnny Depp is going. It astonished me how in the midst of all of this stress and anxiety, I still fall into the temptation to browse social media, saying, 'Just five more mins and I'll get back to work.' In this article, I will research and explore why teenagers, or anyone, get distracted by social media and its impacts.
I think the time I realised that social media had a treacherous impact on my academics was when I started year 11. Year 11 is the first year that teachers and parents begin enforcing the notion of how school will end in a year, and it is pivotal to make the most out of your academic life. Being filled with the stress and anxiety to perform well, I resorted to social media to provide me with that solace and vent my feelings. But soon, this became a significant issue. I kept wanting to check my phone all the time - not allowing me to complete even one task successfully without being distracted. I realized that this soon had to change as this mindset wouldn't be getting me that atar that I am striving for. The first thing I did was ask my parents for help. I gave my phone to my mum and asked her to set a time limit (that included a password that only she knew) for social media engagement per day. This simple change allowed me to stay off my phone for more extended periods. Secondly, I deactivated my social media accounts during exam or assessment blocks. This was my social media detox. Even though it was tremendously challenging to cut off Instagram for two weeks straight - I persevered, which allowed me to perform better, increasing my rank!
There were two main reasons teenagers felt the need to go on social media in my exploration. Firstly, it was the validation sought from the media. Being available and online is a pivotal part of the Gen Z as otherwise, they experience 'FOMO' (fear of missing out). In my personal experience, whenever I am off my phone, I get this innate anxiety that prompts me to pick my phone up again to check if anyone has texted me or if any new memes have surfaced on the net since I last went on it. Especially in the 21st century, the need to be active on social media is an integral part of our identity as it shapes how we perceive the material. Social media gives teenagers and adolescents freedom of expression as well as validation. Social media is designed to create an addiction to it, making individuals come back. This causes the impressionable young minds to come back to it to fit in.
Moreover, other than the addiction aspect of social media, there is a much further consequence to teenagers being online: its drastic impacts on their mental health. Research done by the University of Queensland suggests that given the constant growth of the adolescent mind - exposure to social media can cause depression, anxiety, and loneliness. In addition, With the increasing rate of social media being a career choice for many - teenagers are promoted to post content online, causing them to endure unnecessary stress on their image in the social realm. Along with this, there is a development of envy and low esteem created in teenagers when viewing the idyllic lifestyles of their favorite influencers. This is the eye candy that distracts individuals; the beautiful lives, the funny videos, and the trends they cannot experience. And this is what makes social media so special for my generation!
Secondly, task-oriented distraction is what leads teenagers to use social media. A rewatch of Taylors Swift's new music video sounds like a better alternative to starting a 2000-word chemistry report due next week. According to an Article by Teun Siebrs, it was found that there is an exponential growth among adolescents who are unable to concentrate on a particular task as they are often distracted by their devices. I second this notion as well; I get tired just by doing two integration math questions, and by the time I am on my third - my fingers are scrolling my Instagram feed. Social media prompts individuals with a constant rush of indefinite stimuli, every scroll on TikTok is something new, something different. The stimuli are also user-centric, making the person come back for more. Research done by Tamsin Mahalingam reveals that "those who showed lower levels of attention control were particularly at risk of negative mental health effects of heavy social media use." As my parents say, my attention span is that of Sid, the sloth from the ice age! Although there is this constant anxiety about studying, social media acts like a sponge, tempting us back into it.
Although my points on social media might seem inglorious, I still dearly love it. Through social media, I have been able to feel included in our ever-so-expanding world, creating an identity that I never knew I had! I can communicate with people worldwide (safely!) and get to know about hundreds of new cultures, ideologies, and religions. The TikTok trends and the Instagram posts of all my friends are little jolts of joy that I enjoy.
To sum it all up, social media is a primary concern for today's generation due to its impacts on addiction and distraction to today's youth. Still, you can make a difference to your internet addictions by realising and accepting that social media is addictive and taking action!
Arya - 17yrs
I am exhilarated to be part of the Safe on Social Youth Advisory Committee. I am an individual who enjoys meeting new people and, most notably, making a difference that helps our ever-so-expanding world. Being an avid social media user has enabled me to be a part of our digital community, a norm in our society. Therefore, making our collective digital interaction more safe and secure is one of my many interests that drove my passion for being a part of Safe on Social.