Social media is one of the biggest affairs to happen in internet history. What started off small, such as MySpace in 2004, has grown rapidly since, into apps such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. In this day and age, with apps to look on and interactions to have, these apps have had a tremendous increase since the start of COVID-19 in late 2019 and early 2020.
Many adolescents of various ages have recently found a liking for these apps because of the initiation of quarantine at the start of COVID-19. This virus has continued into October 2021, stretching the increase of social media apps.
The most notorious social media app, as of right now and for the past two years, has been TikTok. Many teens have been using this app for everything from dancing trends to different fun activities, and even watching funny videos for hours. Creators on this app have also helped with the increase of people getting the COVID-19 vaccine. People will see their favorite creator getting the vaccine and it makes them interested in it as well. TikTok is a great way for people all around the world to interact and have fun.
Of course, anything with pros comes with cons as well. One of them being the increase of cyberbullying, bullying in general, and teen’s lack of participation in school activities. Cyberbullying has always been a problem, ever since the internet was created, but with everyone being stuck in their homes during the pandemic, what better way than to turn to the internet to eliminate their boredom. According to L1ght, there has been a 70% increase in online hate between teens and a 40% increase in online gaming hate. L1ght is a small company that started in 2018 with two people who shared a mutual interest in making the internet safer. In the past three years L1ght has removed over 120,000 child predators from the internet.
TikTok, although a great place for people to make friends, is also a great place for people to insult and offend others behind a screen. It is very simple for someone to comment something hateful on anyone’s videos. These hate comments can lead to depression and other mental illnesses for the creators of these videos. Hate comments, although entertaining for others, can get very stressful for the people in the fight of these rude and unmeaningful comments and could further lead to worse mental conditions.
Mental illnesses are sadly one of the most common things in society. These illnesses include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and many more. Mental illnesses cause suicidal ideations to increase and should always be taken seriously. With the increase of social media, comes the increase in these illnesses and unfortunately many people don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Whether you get these illnesses from hate comments or cyberbullying, they are not easy to avoid when on social media.
When Officer Jack Roberts, a police officer who works here at Lafayette, was asked about how he personally feels about these social media apps and cyberbullying, he replied, “Well, my perception of social media is that it is a double edged sword… It can be used for such good stuff and it can be used, also on the other side, for nefarious purposes.”
“I believe social media is a great way for people to reach out and connect with friends and socialize and things, when you’re not doing in-person socializing. However, I do think that it also can be used as a vacuum for bullying and for also spreading rumors and false narratives about students or about a particular situation that’s occurred,” Roberts explained.
With these false narratives being spread, it causes chaos for the officers around the school. Also, as the information gets back to our officers, rather it being from the stop tipline or someone coming face to face and telling them, the situation that started small turns into something bigger.
Officer Roberts continues, “But on the flip side of that, our stop tiplines for example are a great type of tool for us to learn about things that are going on in the school that we might not otherwise learn about—those anonymous tips can really assist us with things, like, if someone’s having a really bad time or such and such is getting bullied, you know, [students might say] ‘I don’t want to give my name but someone’s being bullied in school and I think you guys should check this out.’ Things that are brought to our attention in that regard is definitely a good thing, but the bullying is really, really detrimental to the school and the students.”
Social platforms affect students in many ways, but as Officer Roberts stated there are also many people to talk to. Whether that is anonymously writing your story or someone else’s story on the Stop tipline or talking to a counselor at school. With how social media has been growing in the past few years, we can only imagine how much it will enhance all of our everyday lives from here on out. There is no denying that social media plays a huge role in teenagers lives more than ever before and with the increase of social media apps only time will tell if social media is a positive or negative influence on their future selves and mental health.