Peer pressure multiplied through social media

Published 12:00 pm Tuesday, December 29, 2015

By Kennedy Johnson

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr are popular social media tools, and there is pressure that comes along with their use.

Recently, I made a conscious decision to avoid using Snapchat and Instagram as much as possible in the upcoming new year because of the social pressure I saw outsiders putting on my 12-year-old nephew.

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If my sister turns off the modem that controls WiFi at 10 p.m., my nephew would beg me to turn my phone into a hotspot. He felt he needed to load his Snapchat stories one more time or reply to a message sent two minutes ago.

If I refused, saying he could respond in the morning, I’d get the “You’re ruining my social life” speech. Even as a young adult, I find this craze baffling.

During the last five years, the number of adolescents using social media sites has increased dramatically. A recent study indicates that teenagers who engage with social media during the night could be increasing their risk of depression and anxiety.

Today, teens appear to be so emotionally invested in social media, they wake up in the middle of the night and log on, just to make sure they don’t miss out on anything.

Perhaps the worst part about this is that teenagers need more sleep than adults do, so nighttime social media use could be detrimental to their health. Research has shown that teenagers need 9.5 hours of sleep each night, but on average, they only get 7.5 hours.

We need to ensure that young people are equipped with skills to deal with pressures caused by the use of social media.

A study by the National Citizen Service found that it’s becoming more obvious how the pressure of social media disproportionately affects teenagers.

I see it all around me – pressure to be perfect, look perfect, act perfect, to have the perfect body, have the perfect friend group and have the perfect amount of likes on Instagram. If you do not meet these high standards, self-loathing and bullying begins.

Not only are children feeling pressured by their peers; they are also feeling pressure from their parents, and the parents of their peers. Living in this social media-dominated world, parents have even fallen victim to engaging in social media pressure by competing with what other children and their parents post on social media.

Many parents spend money on extracurricular activities for their children so that they will be perceived as “cool” by their peers. There is the same kind of competition with social media.

Teenagers who allot huge amounts of time on social media sites are more likely to see photos and videos of their friends going out of the country, winning an award, at concerts, dining in luxury restaurants, or even something as simple as standing in a Starbucks line getting the limited coffee of the month.

The study sparked arguments over whether or not social media sites are accountable for amplifying even more of the peer pressure and bullying of teenagers than they are already exposed to offline. And if social media is accountable, to what extent? Did we exist before social media?

My dad’s business existed just as successfully before social media became part of his business plan. Before the social media craze, I did not have to explain to my dad how to update statues, when to use hashtags, or how to tag his employees. I believe that before social media, people spent more time honing their craft and being creative.

Now, we are all like Pavlovian dogs, trying to sound and look perfect so we can be re-tweeted, shared and even loved. What do we do about this?

Kennedy Johnson is a University of Mississippi journalism student.