News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

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The Obsession with Social Media


Senior Russell Wirth looked down at his phone which displayed a photo he had just posted on Instagram. The photo showed Wirth and his family river rafting on vacation, and he had decided to share it so his friends could see what he had done over the break. He had spent some time editing the photo and coming up with a good caption and liked the end result. But as the minutes started to tick by, Wirth noticed that he wasn’t getting a lot of “likes” on the picture. Feeling dejected, Wirth began to think, “Why didn’t my photo get as many likes as other pictures I’ve posted? Was it not pretty? Could it be because the photo was of my family and me instead of my friends?” Feeling a little disappointed, Wirth closed the app and put away his phone. Worrying about the amount of likes one gets on a post is just one example of a habit formed by social media, relating to teens wanting acceptance and approval.

Freshman Madeleine Murr opened the Snapchat app on her phone. She swiped to the  left on the screen and a menu showing all of her Snapchat contacts popped up. Along with their names, this menu also shows each persons’ “Snap Story,” a setting that allows users to take photos and videos that all of their friends can see. Murr clicked on her first contact and a 120 second reel of pointless photos rolled by. She quickly tapped the screen to make the photos go away, rolled her eyes, and closed Snapchat.

Everyone knows that most teenagers use social media through many different applications, but do they know why? Whether it be posting, commenting, or just browsing it seems as though teenagers are always on social media. A study by in 2012 showed that the average person spends 15 hours and 33 minutes each month on Facebook alone. “Teens seem to always have a screen in front of their face and if I turn around, they’re either texting or on some sort of social media,” science teacher Jennifer Brown said. As fun as social media can be, some teenagers develop social media habits that aren’t good. Many teenage social media users stress out over the amount of likes, comments, or views they get on things they post. Some teenagers even develop the tendency to over share on social media, by posting too frequently. Other teenagers using social media spend an excessive amount of time editing their photos and coming up with witty captions to go along with them. These habits like oversharing, worrying about likes and comments, and spending too much time making posts perfect, all seem to come back to teens wanting to project a nicer image of themselves. If so many teenagers are using social media platforms to appear cool, is it because they are seeking acceptance and/or approval from their peers?

CBS News published an article in October showing the results of a survey issued by Piper Jaffray, an investment bank and asset management firm. This survey showed that more than nine out of ten American teenagers use social media. This survey also showed that 76 percent of American teenagers use Instagram, 59 percent of teens use Twitter, and 45 percent of teenagers use Facebook. Another 20 percent of teens reported that they use other social media platforms including Snapchat. Based off of this survey, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat are the most used social media applications among teenagers in the U.S.. These are also the applications that some Tam students believe teens use to gain acceptance and approval.

Teens use different social media platforms for different reasons. Many social media apps and websites make it easier and less expensive for teens to communicate. Other apps and websites give teens the ability to speak their minds and express themselves through photos, videos, and commenting. “Snapchat is good because you can communicate with your friends in an easier way and Instagram is just a fun way to see what other people are doing,” said Murr, who uses both apps. Many teens use social media websites and apps, such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat because they’re fun and entertaining. “I think [using social media] starts out as something fun, which is why anyone gets any app, but then it turns into this constant need be approved by everyone,” sophomore and Snapchat user Sophia Venables said.

Although these applications can be used just for entertainment and communication, they can also cause a great deal of stress among teenagers. On applications like Instagram and Facebook, some teenagers may spend a lot of time editing one photo and thinking of a clever caption to go along with it.

“I feel like in order to get social media approval, people expect you to post photos at these ‘artsy lookouts’ with witty captions,” Wirth said. “I think the whole reason [for that] is because people want to get more ‘likes’, and currently, our generation rewards artsiness and wit; ‘likes’ have become a sign of society approving of your behavior. If you’re witty and it’s a pretty photo, you’re more likely to get that approval, so we’ll edit the photo to increase our chances.”

Like Wirth, others believe that teens are concerned with the quality of their photos and captions, because they want more “likes.” If teenagers post something witty and/or pretty, they feel that it is more socially acceptable and that their peers will like it more. But why are teens so concerned with the amount of “likes” they get from their peers?

For some teenage social media users, the amount of “likes” or comments one receives, can make or break their self esteem. “Teens see [‘likes’] as a symbol of the general public approving their looks, and lifestyle choices,” senior Carla Cardamone said. “They see it as acceptance and sadly enough, popularity.” Some teenagers have actually deleted posts because they have not received enough “likes” in a certain amount of time. There is even an app called GetLikes that Instagram users can download to buy “likes” on their photos. Receiving a great amount of “likes” on a post may not be important to some teenagers, but to others it is a justification of actually being liked. “The biggest problem I have with social media is that it can take away from the bigger tasks of being a teenager,” said local PhD Psychologist and author, Madeline Levine. “The problem comes when teens become ‘addicted’ and social media gets in the way of them going out with their friends and having hobbies.”

Of course on social media there are those people who some might classify as too social. These are the social media users who have a tendency to over share. This could mean they tweet on Twitter every five minutes or they have a 100 second “Snapchat Story” every day. Some teenagers aren’t bothered by this, while others are, and the opinions on over sharing on social media all seem to depend on who the person over sharing is.

“When it’s my friends [over sharing], I love it,” Cardamone said. “Sometimes an ugly selfie of my friend doing a facial will make boring homework that much more entertaining, but again I don’t really care how my mom’s best friend’s sister felt about her mommy and me yoga class.”

While some aren’t as bothered by over sharing, others find it unnecessary and annoying. “There are people who have ‘Snapchat Stories’ everyday, and I’m just like ‘please stop.’ If it was something cool I would care but it’s normally just their friends doing stupid things,” Murr said.

Though many teens dislike it when others over share, some still have a tendency to do it. “I’m not immune to over sharing on social media,” Wirth said. “But I think it’s a way of showing others that you are socially involved, that you are a ‘cool interesting person.’ I think that, that can be unhealthy because there seems to be a need for people to justify their actions and their social involvement by showing others they don’t just sit around the house all the time; I think that that is very much a construct of our generation.”

Spending a lot of time making posts perfect, worrying about “likes” or comments, and over sharing are all ways that show teens do use social media because they are seeking approval and acceptance from their peers. A lot of teens may not be aware that they do these things because they want approval from their peers. “I think the fact that we feel this need to prove our socialness to others is unfortunate because we really shouldn’t feel the need to justify ourselves to anyone else. We should be proud of who we are as people,” Wirth says. “I think we need to focus on developing real relationships with people, in person, rather than projecting these manicured images of ourselves to other people on social media to gain digital social acceptance.”

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