Columnist discusses teens’ overdependence on social media

By Josie Stewart, ’21

My feet were kicked up on the dashboard of my sister’s car while I reached to pull the seatbelt across my chest. My eyes were fixed on the glow of the screen in my hand rather than the cars that rushed beside me. With each tap of the screen, a flash consumed my face, a picture sent mindlessly. Platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and VSCO transfix myself and others in moments like these.

Sometimes referred to as “the mom of the friend group,” it’s not uncommon for me to take phones away from my friends at dinner so we can all talk to each other. When I don’t, conversations seem to be focused around memes found on Instagram, someone being caught for drinking on Snapchat stories, hitting a one year anniversary of a streak or even the occasional picture of someone vaping posted on VSCO.

The complaint of losing streaks is now as familiar as homework, frequently followed by anger concerning the new update on one of the most popular social media platforms, Snapchat. After I watched the numbers disappear next to friends’ and strangers’ names, the app soon became a burden to me, as it seemed that leaving someone on open was enough for an argument to begin. Swayed by the words of one of my closest friends, I felt the right decision was to limit my use of Snapchat and eventually I decided to delete it.

After deleting the app, I quickly began to realize the addiction I had. Every time I opened my phone, my finger immediately tapped the folder that had held Snapchat. The place was now taken by VSCO which I began to view more frequently as a second option. Instagram, the only other form of social media I use, also began to make up for the loss of taking pictures constantly. Getting lost in the Explore page became a normality and a distraction from homework and occasionally from other people.

VSCO, an app predominantly used by girls, also became an annoyance as I watched countless selfies of the same girls be re-posted on my feed. I deleted the app for almost five months before ending the cleanse and downloading it once again. Now, I see it as something where there is no need for approval from others. Pictures are posted with no one being able to say anything about it, a more impersonal form of social media.

My last and most abused platform, Instagram, has only been deleted off my phone once for midterms week in order to focus more on studying. Keeping it seems almost like a necessity for fear of missing a post or even the meme pages that my friends have created. Trying to get away from using it to procrastinate, even while writing for Arlingtonian, I have gotten better at limiting my use of it. Although it sounds like a lesson from a parent about deleting social media, it is not always necessary. Simply limiting your use and overcoming the sense of validation that some seek through these apps is enough. Being able to put down your phone with friends and talk seems like a thing of the past, but when you do, time with your friends becomes even more enjoyable. I, too, am still working on cutting back on how often I wander through Explore pages and worry more about taking “artsy” pictures or candids rather than just enjoying where I am, and doing the same could benefit you in similar ways.