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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
The plight of teenagers
Increased social media use has withered teens’ connections to others — and to learning
By Ananya Mopur | May | June 2022
Mental health remains a topic full of medical mysteries. There is no definite cure for depression or anxiety. Yet, suicide rates continue to exponentially rise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Being in quarantine has affected students in detrimental ways by decreasing social interaction and deducting valuable opportunities. Returning to school, teenagers continue to lack social awareness and isolate themselves from their peers. To escape from social interaction, many students spend the majority of their time on social media where they are subjected to unattainable beauty standards, perpetuating a cycle of self-hate and insecurity. Education also suffers as attention spans continue to decrease, stifling the love for learning among children everywhere.
Popularly used as a means to eliminate boredom during quarantine, social media is now utilized to disengage, increasing mental health issues in teens. While long-distance online communication remains a blessing for many people to connect, social platforms not only hostilely affect relationships with the self, but also those with loved ones. Ironically, society lost connection with one another since texting (being one of the only forms of communicating) could not reveal the true emotions or body language required for proper communication.
Without human connection for more than a year, many teens started developing depression and suicidal thoughts at an increased rate. What was once considered an outlet for self-expression, social media quickly became an escape from the events of daily life. Students continue to rely on apps like TikTok and Instagram for validation and unknowingly consume fake and harmful content due to numerous filters and Photoshop.
Going back to school has made me and my peers much more anxious about our image because being beautiful is no longer attainable. We are convinced that to be loved, we need to change our looks to mimic celebrities and influencers. During quarantine, I struggled with an eating disorder because I wanted the “perfect body” — one that society deems appealing. I skipped breakfast, went on numerous diets, worked out every day, and yet never seemed to accept myself. While on the path to recovery, the school switched from in-person to online and all my insecurities became much more prominent. I became hyper-aware about how I looked to other people, increasing my feelings of inadequacy. I started isolating myself and constantly took naps to avoid thinking about myself. This remains the plight of students everywhere. Instead of finding new hobbies that involve creative skills, teenagers spend the majority of their time online to increase their social standing through “like” buttons. The lack of human connection has not only destroyed the self-esteem of teens everywhere but continues to stump the love for learning.
After spending a year and a half attending classes online, students are unable to engage or pay attention in class. Advances in technology have certainly made life easier but it is now negatively affecting education. Since Google provided all the answers for assignments and tests, many teenagers did not find a reason to do their schoolwork without cheating. Returning back to in-person learning has made it harder for teachers to engage students because many do not realize the importance of critical thinking and problem-solving. The reliance on technology has made students believe that they do not need to learn since they can find the answers to their questions online. This means that the majority of teenagers have no idea what career they might want to pursue. Skill levels for reading and writing have also decreased since many do not know how to effectively communicate with each other. The future job market continues to look bleak since young people have not had the opportunity to earn the skills required in a work setting. School has become a chore rather than a place for students to reach their full potential and learn more about subjects they love.
While the death count for COVID-19 may not be as high as the Spanish flu, it has indirectly contributed to the lack of connection between people. Since people could not go outside for a long period of time, online presence increased, bringing forth problems like low self-image and decreased attention spans. Teenagers, being highly impressionable, have suffered at an all-time high due to isolation. Despite there being many pandemics in the past, the current one has had much more detrimental effects on youth today, which proves that online communities have the power to destroy years of tradition and lifestyles. To protect the mental and physical health of people, society (especially students) must learn to rely less on technology.
Ananya Mopur attends Saugus High School in the William S. Hart Union High School District.
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