An increasing trend over the last 20 years is the number of youth and students using social media.
However, the drawback for many young people is that it has become a burden in creating higher levels of self-doubt, anxiety and stress.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, social media plays a big role in teen culture, with an estimated 90% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 using social media. More than two-thirds of teens have their own mobile devices with internet capabilities.
According to Macy Key, who just finished her junior year at Castle View High School in Castle Rock, one of her main reasons for anxiety and changes in her decisions comes from the impact social media has on her and her peers.
“I think all of my social anxiety has actually come from social media,” she said. “I’ve always been thinking about trying something new like track or basketball but it always ended with me being convinced I’d be made fun of. Everyone is always recording. Everyone is always taking unflattering photos. It’s easier to avoid it entirely than risk it.”
Junior year in high school is when the college search becomes more real for students. According to Key, her dream has been to go to the University of Texas. Seeing social media posts, Key said, has created feelings of uncertainty and stress. It causes her to think far into the future to achieve this goal.
“Whenever I see posts from UT Austin. I want to go there so, so bad for college but my GPA right now is not going to help my chances,” she said. “Whenever I think about it I get really nervous and stressed because I feel like I need to be perfect for the next year so I at least have a fighting chance.”
For Key, social media has played into both the thoughts of failure and the need to do more.
“It has gone both ways for me,” she said. “I feel like I’m more encouraged to do well when I see that I’m ahead of other people. When I’m seeing my friends looking at MIT or Brown, it gets really hard to stay motivated because I know I don’t have those opportunities.”
Key’s feelings are not uncommon for teenagers and young adults. Dr. Ron-Li Liaw, the mental health-in-chief for Children’s Hospital Colorado, said the competition factor plays a big role in how unhealthy social media use has become for teens and society.
“We are social beings and we learn by watching each other,” Liaw said.
Key, like other students, said she sometimes avoids saying anything online altogether because she might not look as good as other students her age.
“I feel like I always need to have something to brag about, which is really hard,” she said. “Academically, I’m not anything to brag about. Athletically, I’m certainly not anything to brag about. So online, I try to stay away from D1 athlete commits and Ivy League scholarships because I know those things aren’t in the cards for me.”
Thelma Grimes contributed to this story.
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