Two Shades of Gray

Students Discuss Pros, Cons of Social Media


Photo by Ally JohnPress

As social media’s influence grows, there are certain pros and cons that come along with it. In addition to liking Instagram posts or making music videos on TikTok, online relationships can form, people can educate themselves on important matters and both kids and adults gain exposure to the world around them. “Obviously, constant exposure to social media can be both physically and mentally draining,” senior Tolani Segun said. “However, if you are being conscious in its use, by limiting the time you spend on certain sites and refraining from pages that encourage negativity, then social media can be a very useful tool. Best of all, TikTok and Instagram let you play with funny filters, and TikTok even taught me how to dance.”

Video by Katie Smith and Madelyn Roberts

Ally JohnPress and Ruchi Sankolli

With the world increasingly relying on technological innovations, social media has become one of the most common modes of communication for many young people. It has constantly evolved to become a domineering aspect of our lives. However, despite the plethora of benefits it provides, users are quick to list some drawbacks of social media as well. 

According to Psychology Today, there are a range of factors that determine the link between teenage well-being and social media. The four main themes that were identified are connections, identity, learning and emotions. Each theme has its own pros and cons, such as connections, where social media can either support or hinder an adolescent’s relationships. 

“I think social media has really connected society as a whole,” senior Hailey Bowermon said. “But, even though it has succeeded at bringing many people together, I also believe it has done a lot of damage, especially for young, impressionable audiences. I think social media has changed the lives of many, in both good and bad ways, but especially for teenagers of whatever gender, as it has made us look at ourselves much deeper than we would have ever before.”

Social connections via social media can create intimacy among friends and could improve confidence, according to Psychology Today.

“Social media has helped me stay in touch with my friends and family that live far away,” sophomore Gray Galat said. “I am able to see what they are up to through pictures and posts. Although social media has some negatives, I feel like it’s important for keeping up with day-to-day life.”

However, easier communication can also be a disadvantage because of different kinds of people and environments, according to junior Cyrus Van Sickle.

“The negative effect [of social media] is probably all the negativity on social media, and the fact that it can lead you to a lot of different bad areas, or with bad people,” Van Sickle said. “So, you have to be safe on social media, a lot of times. Don’t be on it too much, because if you’re on it too much, then you’re going to get hooked on your phone, and there is a lot of outside world that is worth living and worth seeing.”

 Social media can also be distracting and addictive, according to Van Sickle.  

“Don’t be on [social media] too much,” Van Sickle said. “If you’re on it too much, then you’re going to get hooked on your phone, and there is a lot of outside world that is worth living and worth seeing.”

Another con of social media, according to senior Madison Cherry, is the amount of false information present. According to Cherry, websites that end in “.org” or “.gov” are more educational-based websites and more trustworthy. 

“I have seen false information about something or someone on social media,” Cherry said. “Yes, there are ways to report it, but before it gets reported, people can still see it and believe it’s true when [it’s] not and share it on their profile. I have seen things that have been twisted. [The information] would kind of take things out of context, and say one thing, but if you look at what actually happened, you’ll [understand] why this other thing happened.”

While social media, such as Instagram, has software that allows users to report false information or content that goes against user guidelines. While that is reliable, according to Cherry, it does not fully stop the rapid spread of false information. 

“I believe [the software] is reliable, but social media is just so big that people can create new posts and keep spreading information and even go on other platforms to spread something without checking their facts,” Cherry said. “Personally, I have [spread information], but only after I do research.”

 However, some students also utilize social media for promotional purposes. Cherry, who is a social media marketer for American Eagle, said she benefits from Instagram’s promotional features because of marketing tools such as Instagram analytics, where a user can view how many accounts are engaged, the total number of followers on an account and its shared contents.

“Promoting on Instagram helps because I can see if people like the product or certain posts that didn’t get as much engagement as others,” Cherry said. “Instagram analytics are [also] really helpful to see what your audience likes. On my account, I have my contact [information], so if someone were to email me, [Instagram] would tell me if someone emailed or called me.”

Product engagement can be boosted with the help of these analytics, according to Cherry. Due to the amount of networking Instagram has created, Cherry said she is able to reach out to many people at once with just one post. 

“I try using hashtags,” Cherry said. “If someone just follows that hashtag, it’ll pop up on their feed, and they can see that. I always try to promote [products] on my stories as well, but it’s mostly the hashtags. What I learned to do is when I repost my post, I move it to the side, and do a whole bunch of hashtags underneath the post, and put the post back over it. The hashtags are there that way, [but] they’re just not seen, so it makes it more aesthetically pleasing on your story, but it is popping up somewhere on someone’s story because they follow that hashtag.”

According to a journal article by Nature Communications, social media provides a safe space for self expression as much as self image. In a study involving Facebook users, it was supported that actual personalities were shown more than authentic personalities, thus supporting social media’s nature: to prevent self image from being misinterpreted. In other cases, individual self-expression can grow from the use of social media, such as freshman Neyha Khan, who actively uses the writing platform Wattpad, and said she discovered her passion for writing through the platform and has found ways to maintain a positive image online as well. 

“I started experimenting with different things, which has certainly impacted my positivity in a positive way,” Khan said. “I’ve found things that contribute to who I am today. There are times when I come across negative news over social media that make me sad, but there are some uplifting things as well. On Wattpad, there’s a Muslim writer that I follow. She sent an announcement wishing [the] Muslim community a happy Eid, which made me very happy.”

However, being present on social media comes with insecurity, according to Khan. Feeds can consist of celebrities, “influencers” and other figures that students might compare themselves to, especially as a first time user of any social media platform. 

“When I first started writing on Wattpad, an unrealistic expectation that I made was that I could become one of the top people on that platform,” Khan said. “Now, I’m at a point where I don’t really care who reads and comments on my story. I really just want to share my story with the world, for whoever wants to read it.”

According to Bowermon, seeing highlights or edited photos promoted as “real” images online can be damaging to one’s self-confidence.

“I know I’m not the only one who has struggled with insecurities with my body, lifestyle and personality because of the girls on the internet that seem so much prettier, richer or smarter,” Bowermon said. “It’s hard to tell yourself that it’s typically a facade because it just seems so real and obtainable ‘if only you had more money, a better body, plastic surgery’ and whatever else. We have found more wrong with us than we could have ever considered because social media convinces us to find something wrong that we can hone on forever.”

According to Erikson Institute, with the globalization of technology, children are using technology at a younger age. Exposure to social media gives students the chance to discover their identities, whether they can embrace the truth of who they are or hinder their confidence. 

“I remember I started social media very early, and I thought it was the best thing ever, until I noticed that there was so much hatred and misconception that anyone could put out there,” Bowermon said. “For both adolescent girls and boys, I think growing up in the time of the explosion of social media has damaged the views we have upon ourselves, as well as others, which is evident in not only our everyday lives but also in how we interact.”

On the other hand, social media can provide exposure to important global news or events, such as protests like Black Lives Matter or the #MeToo movement. Numerous pages also include helpful links for research or where a student can donate or provide resources to fundraisers. 

“I’ve noticed that whenever there are social issues happening, social media sites are very good at bringing these issues to the eyes of ordinary individuals,” senior Tolani Segun said. “When the Black Lives Matter protests were happening a few summers ago, TikTok was a platform that was very helpful in keeping me updated on where protests were happening and why and which fundraisers were in need of the most support. Additionally, these cites not only keep me up to date on issues happening close to me, but also on issues impacting the world globally, like the End SARS movement in Nigeria. Honestly, without certain social media sites, I would most likely be highly uninformed about the issues impacting the world today.”

With both its pros and cons, it is important to balance one’s social media intake, according to Segun.

“Obviously, constant exposure to social media can be both physically and mentally draining,” Segun said. “However, if you are being conscious in its use, by limiting the time you spend on certain sites and refraining from pages that encourage negativity, then social media can be a very useful tool. Best of all, TikTok and Instagram let you play with funny filters, and TikTok even taught me how to dance.”