Social Media and the Youngsters

Bernarda Cervantes, Reporter

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This isn’t the ‘80’s and no one born after 1995 is using a cellphone to call anyone.

In the digital age, social media is indispensable. Who among us doesn’t obsessively maintain Snapchat streaks, scroll through Instagram and Twitter before bed, and cringe at our family’s Facebook squabbles?

However, the proliferation of all of these platforms, and more importantly, the private information that is quickly becoming less and less private, can also be a cause for concern.

In a survey, I sought to find how many social media accounts the average CHS student accumulates.

I began by tallying how many accounts I have, thinking about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, among the most popular social media platforms. I, only having three of the aforementioned, believed I would have a smaller number compared to my peers. I was shocked to realized that over the years I had accumulated 26 different accounts. And that’s because I got tired of counting.

The average number of social media accounts CHS students have is an astonishing 19 accounts. So much for having less accounts than my peers. I had MORE. Mrs. Spradley, our journalism adviser, also had more than twenty accounts. So did most of the Chipper.

Okay, you’re thinking “so my parents are right and I’m spending a lot of my time online.” So what? It’s apparently a little more than that. Researchers at the UCLA brain mapping center, using an fMRI scanner, scanned the brains of 32 teenagers as they used an application similar to Instagram developed more for their purpose.

The proliferation of this type of nonstop connectedness, of always being online has easily slipped into our lives. It’s addictive, and that’s not an exaggeration. The University of Bergon made the first study of its kind when it sought to investigate Facebook addiction. The study alleged that young people were more likely to be addicted. Those who are anxious and “socially insecure” were also at risk. Facebook can make communication easier for those who are deemed socially insecure and anxious. It can be all too easy to forgo face-to-face connections when Facebook is so easy, and with the advent of cellphones, right in the palm of your hand.

In another study authored in 2012, the National Institutes of Health stated that “problematic computer use is a growing concern,” and has guidelines for diagnosing Internet Addiction Disorder, though it has not been included in the DSM-5, though a more stringently defined Internet Gaming Addiction is included. If you haven’t taken AP Psychology, the inclusion of the disorder in the DSM-5 means that a psychologist can actually diagnose Internet Gaming Addiction, most likely because there have been multiple cases involving deaths from this addiction. Notably the parents whose child died of starvation while they played online games, the game they were playing? Prius Online, a 3-D fantasy game about….raising a child. Within the game, the child the players virtually ‘raise’ grows up to have magical powers. Because of it, the couple’s flesh and blood daughter will not grow up at all.  

Social media has had a huge impact on our lives, and as it turns out, our death. It’s rapid growth and expansion in its scope of our lives has had an unforeseen and morbid side effect: what happens to our profiles after our death? Families, in addition to planning funerals, now have to deal with the awkward issue of what to do to a loved one’s Facebook profile. Dead profiles are on the rise for Facebook, an estimated 8,000 users die daily according to a paper on this exact subject, titled, Death and Social Media Implications for the Young and Will-less by Alexandra Elliott.

In an effort to combat this issue Facebook has implemented settings that allow you to choose what happens to your Facebook account after you die. In the Help section, Facebook answers questions like How do I report a deceased person?  And What will happen to my Facebook account when I pass away? The Digital Beyond is a company dedicated to helping make these decisions, stating on its website, “ The Digital Beyond maintains this list of online services that are designed to help you plan for your digital death and afterlife or memorialize loved ones. These services come in all flavors including digital estate services, posthumous email services and online memorials.”

Though most of us are not planning to take advantage of these services just yet, there are other concerns when it comes to living life online, according to Mrs. Bolhuis, “Our feelings and our empathy has not evolved with it,” she says. She recommends being more considerate of other feelings when it comes to social media. There have also been an increase in social media related deaths, suicides. Laws like Rebecca’s Law in Florida have included punishments for cyber bullying. At the rate that our technology is moving, so are our laws and punishments.

With that said, if you need me, I’ll probably be on Twitter.

**Note, since the creation of this article, the author has created a Facebook. Whether that speaks to the proliferation of social media or the author’s procrastination is still unclear. Maybe both. 

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