Have you ever looked at someone’s Facebook profile and thought, “wow I’m so jealous of their life.” If you have, well let’s just say you’re not the only one. Over the last couple of years, the use of social media platforms has exploded, attracting audiences from around the globe of every age, gender, and social class. Whether you are a young child playing candy crush online or a grandma trying to connect with her grandkids, vast majorities of people have tried to connect on social media platforms in some way or another.
But for those who use social media regularly, you know that your online presence is like a craft. You study it, work on it, and then constantly try to find new ways to perfect it. This makes me wonder, are teens searching for approval by presenting themselves as “cool” or “hip” on these platforms? Growing up with Facebook I realized that if you didn’t get a lot of likes or shares you were not very popular in school. A virtual like was a like an in person smile from the cheerleader. You craved it and found ways to get it.
This has led many teens to obsess about their social media presence. CNN reports in an article that teenagers around 13 years old check social media over 100 times a day and according to the telegraph post on hours spent online by teenagers, the average teen between 16 and 24 spends over 27 hours a week on the Internet. My younger sister Fiona, who just turned 14, got Facebook around the age of 11, and spends around 5 hours a day updating it. She is constantly asking me to like her and her friends latest profile pictures because if they don’t get over ‘150’ likes that’s just “sad.”
This issue has led teens searching for approval in everything they post online. For example, have you ever had a bad day but got that one amazing group photo? You are all cranky and tired from walking the city, and don’t get along with the people you are with but you remember that you haven’t posted a photo in over a week and you fear people think you’re not doing something cool. We are all guilty of it. Social media has become a space that allows people to post a photo representing a snippet in time where everything seems perfect. Instagram, a free online social network that allows you to share photos is the perfect example of this.
Essena O’neil, an Instagram sensation, talks about just this when she posts a controversial video on why she is quitting social media. 19-year-old model says that “social media is not real” and has been the cause of her depression for a long time. She explains that social media represents a fake life, like spending hours trying to take the “perfect” photo. She believes people search for other people’s approval when the only way to be happy is if you accept yourself.
I experienced this not long ago. I remember one day, around 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, I was telling my friend that I wanted to post a new profile picture and Instagram photo. She looked at me like I was crazy. When I asked what was wrong she said that you only post photos around 7pm on Sundays because that’s when everyone is online and the best time for likes. She also said that I needed a clever caption and appropriate hash tags. I was so shocked by how much she had thought this through. After this interaction i was obsessed with posting my photos on the right day, at the right time, with the perfect caption and correct filters.
Are social media platforms the new “it” for happiness? Social media has allowed teens, in other words, to create a new persona. There real life versus their online life. This raises another question of are online relationships genuine? The boy you have a crush on has liked your latest Instagram photo, but does he say hi to you in person? Over 60 people like your new profile picture but do they greet you in the school corridors? Teenagers want acceptance and getting it online might be the easiest way to achieve it.