“What is wrong with this generation? They spend all their time on the internet”
“Can’t you put your phone down and quit texting for five minutes?”
“All my teenager cares about is their smartphone and social media.”
Have you heard any of these phrases come out of your mouth? Ever just thought them to yourself? I’m here, as one teenager to the rest of the world, to inform a generation of adults who don’t understand the why’s and how’s of the importance of social media to the average teen. In order to understand this I will explore three topics:
- How much time teens spend on social media sites and why?
- Why do teens feel obligated to be present on social media when they are posting and even if they aren’t?
- If teens choose not to use social media how it can affect their social experiences?
I know that I cannot speak for an entire generation of teenagers, but I hope that after reading this blog from the perspective an average teen, adults will gain an understanding on why teens have made social media such an important part of their lives.
How much time are teens spending on social media?
“Like half the day.” “From the time I get home to the time I go to bed, I am usually on my computer”, said 14 year-old Abigail Wolfe and Ben Knight respectively in a post by The Washington Post. In the article it was said that teens spend 7 and a half hours a day consuming media. That is almost a full time job! Now this ranges from “watching TV, listening to music, surfing the Web, social networking, and playing video games, according to a 2010 study of 8- to 18-year-olds conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.” As a teen who uses all of the above mentioned media tools, I have found that it is easy to spend this much time, if not more, consuming media. There is, what feels like, an unlimited world of media to choose from.
These are just a few of the many that I choose to engage with and staying up date with them feels like a full time job. I have spent hours at a time scrolling through my social media apps on my phone, and don’t even realize it until afterwards. I get up thinking to myself, “Did I really just waste two hours on my phone?” It is a lot easier to do than I would like to admit. I come back to my dorm room after a class–instead of doing homework–and immediately check my social media apps to catch up on what I missed.I guess that leads us right into our next question:
Why do teens feel obligated to be present on social media?
In order to help my audience understand I realized I too needed to figure why I felt it was important to be present and up to date on social media. As I asked a few of my friends I realized they too didn’t really know.
“um…ha…I honestly don’t know.”
“I don’t know, I just don’t want to miss out I guess.”
“It keeps me aware of what is going on in my friends lives without having to ask them”
“It’s entertaining. I don’t feel obligated, but I also don’t like when I can’t to be on it”
And so I too began to answer the question:
I do feel obligated to be on social media, because it is one of the most universal and efficient ways of being social. These social platforms have created a space where users are able to connect instantly with anyone. From being able to keep in touch with friends and relatives, to being able to follow your favorite tv show, celebrity and even news channel. Social media sites have become m0re than just a place to be social. They have become a news outlet for me. I get most if not all of my information about events from social media. This includes social events as wells as world events. For example when the horrific terrorist attacks took place in Paris just recently, I found out due to a large amount of tweets that filled my timeline at the time. I rely on social media to me connected to the rest of the world. Which brings me to my final topic:
If teens choose not to use social media how it can affect their social experiences?
Morgan: Being cut off from social media is awful. Even just one day off it makes you feel like you’re totally out of the loop on everything. I always feel like I miss out on tons of stuff, and everyone knows more than me about what’s been going on lately.
Zach: It feels as if something really important has been taken away, and if I don’t have it, I will just be a more grumpier and frustrated person in general.
I decided that in order to truly understand the role social media plays in my life, I would create a world without it.
Okay I didn’t go as far as to destroying my phone, but it felt like I did. I continued using my phone in order to receive phone calls and texts, but deleted all social media apps for an five days (Monday-Friday).
Monday was by far the most difficult. I felt like I had no idea what to do with my time. When walking to a class, waiting for a class to start, waiting in line, or eating by myself I rely on music and social media to keep me entertained. Without it I felt lost in way. By force of habit I kept taking out my phone to go on one of my social media apps, only to remember that they were gone. When I was done with classes for the day I had nothing to do since I couldn’t go on social media. I tried to kill as much time as possible by hanging out with my friends, but it was difficult because they would get wrapped up in their phones. It was something I had never really noticed, or minded since I too would have my phone, but since I didn’t I felt frustrated and annoyed that they were so preoccupied with socializing with people in their phone instead of the person right in front of them.
The next few days I felt grateful, for the first time the entire semester, that I had very busy, late days. Although it was still difficult not to be able to be on social media I found other things to do with my time. I was more aware of surroundings as I walked to class instead of having headphones plugged in. I met and spoke with a girl named Sara while waiting in line to order my coffee. I picked up a book from Barnes & Noble bookstore, and began reading that. I also got a head start on a few homework assignments. All the while I knew I was being productive, but I couldn’t fight the overbearing feeling that I was missing out on everything the rest of the world was doing.
By the end of the week, although I was more than happy to re-download all of my social media apps back onto my phone.I did realize a lot about the way social media affects my social experiences. I realized I miss out on a lot of real life social experiences by being so consumed with digital social experiences. I realized that all the time I spend scrolling through the sites could be better spent on more productive things.
I also realized that without social media I have no way of connecting with the people that I don’t see everyday. Social media sites allow for me to stay connected with hundreds of friends all at once. For example, instead of texting all 400+ people who follow me on twitter I can simple tweet about my excitement about the B- I got on my recent paper. Then, those who choose to, can join in my mini-celebration of my accomplishment. Social media allows for me to stay connected like no other form of technology out there, and it is a connection I find vital and important to my life.
Social media holds a special place in the lives of most teens today. It is a way for us to stay connected, informed, and entertained. Although we may spend more time on it than adults can seem to understand, and while the importance of it may be hard to comprehend, I hope this blog was able to provide some insight into the mind of an average teen.