Every day NDP senior Nicolette Sciortino mindlessly scrolls through her phone for what seems like minutes, but is actually hours. It is not something that she is proud of; however, whether it be looking at fashion trends or watching food videos, she spends hours browsing her many social media accounts every day. From the time she wakes up to the moment she falls asleep, Sciortino cannot seem to get away from the gravitational pull of her phone.

“My phone controls my life,” Sciortino said, admitting that she has an addiction to social media, a commonality among modern teenagers and young adults. Social media addiction is not a problem faced by just one individual, but by most members of modern society: “It’s not just a personal issue, it’s a societal issue,” Sciortino said.

Social media controls how one thinks, feels and acts, and though it may not always be apparent, one subconsciously feels the effect of social media’s pervasiveness in one’s life. Every “burst” of a Snapchat, “whistle” of a tweet and “ding” of a comment commands one’s attention wherever he is. There is no escaping the reach of technology.

Despite teens feeling that their phone addiction controls their lives and is a negative influence, it has come to a point that one’s phone is something that cannot be done without. One’s whole life is online, making the internet the hub of one’s daily life. 

NDP seniors Karlie Perry, Natalia Sanabria and Kaitlyn Madrigal browsing their social media during lunch on Dec. 11, 2019. Staff photo taken by Jarod Bogsinske 

The Pervasiveness of Phones:

“When I leave the house, I check for two things in my pocket: my keys and my phone,” NDP junior Nick Ward said. Wherever one goes, their phone follows. 

According to the Pew Research Center, five billion people of the 7.6 billion people in the world own some sort of smartphone. 

Phones are a tool with many uses. On the practical side, phones can be used to send emails, texts and calls. Recreationally, phones provide users with numerous games and other forms of entertainment that can now be accessed wherever one goes. Social media blends both the practical and recreational uses of phones, making it an important aspect of one’s online life.

Social media can be overlooked as being something only meant for fun, but it has evolved to also be a useful tool for businesses, allowing for advertising of products and businesses, as well as providing direct communication between the customer and a business. 

“Social media is a huge marketing tool. There is advertising for the base, and paid advertising can be targeted very well providing you know what you’re doing. It’s the new billboard,” said Ward.

Overall, there are many positive aspects of phone and social media usage for all parties involved; however, sometimes phone usage can be a slippery slope to developing a phone addiction.

Read more about NDP students and their smartphones here.

How Use Becomes Addiction:

Social media apps are meant to draw in one’s attention for hours so that one keeps coming back for more and more content. With constant updates, new posts every second and millions of other people to interact with, these apps capture the user’s mind to keep them trapped for hours.  

All throughout the day, social media apps send a constant bombardment of notifications at users in order to keep users’ minds wondering what is happening on their social media, ultimately making them more likely to check their phone. The more one opens their phone to check, the more time one will spend mindlessly looking through social media.

“Social media app users tend to use an app for 10-20 minutes per session after opening it. Considering that 56% of users say they open a social media app more than 10 times per day, that adds up to a lot of time spent on social media apps,” Ian Leslie wrote in 1843 Magazine.

A 2016 study by The Common Sense Census found that the average teen spends nine hours on their phone a day, meaning that the average teen spends thirty eight percent of their day online. 

“I find that when I get bored, I will scroll through my social media accounts looking at random things and lose track of time, and then I realize that I have been scrolling for hours and have done none of what I actually needed to get done,” NDP junior Christian Galia said. 

Besides keeping one’s attention through notifications, social media alas also pull at one’s emotions. “Social media apps dominate app usage by offering a comprehensive source of online content and harnessing our desire for social validation,” Riley Panko, a writer for The Manifest, wrote.

It has been found that when one receives a like on a post, it releases chemicals into one’s brain that makes one feel happy and content. “The desire to receive a “like” on your newest Facebook photo or status update gives you a rush, similar to pulling the lever on a slot machine,” Leslie wrote. However, this only last a short amount of time, leaving one wanting more.

This want for more is what leads teens to rely on the validation of others. They need more likes and more followers so that they can feel good about themselves. However, this need for validation does not just stay online.

The Influence of Others:

“Lots of conversations that happen at school and with friends in general are based on social media,” Sciortino said. With so much happening online outside of school, what happens outside of class does not stay outside of class. 

In the modern age, whatever was posted on social media yesterday becomes the hot topic of conversation for today. “Even at school, social media is a huge part of the conversation. Since social media is such a huge part of our lives, there is not much else to talk about,” Sciortino said. 

Whether it be good or bad, people talk about who posted what photo, who they got an interesting snap from, and who posted a funny tweet. “It may not be ideal, but it is what it is,” Sciortino said, “social media is an all-encompassing and controlling part of our lives.” 

“If someone doesn’t have social media, they are out of the loop,” Sciortino said, and nobody wants to feel left out. With so much happening online in one day, without constant access to social media, a person loses their ability to stay up to date with current events happening in the world as well as within their friend group. “All day I am receiving texts, calls, snaps and direct messages through my social media. Without it, I would feel completely left out,” Sciortino said. 

In life, people are always judged on their appearance, personality and all other aspects of who they are. Since social media and the internet have become an extension of oneself, judgment based off of one’s online presence was bound to follow. 

Pressure to Edit:

Along with addiction to social media and the constant judgement of others based off of what one posts online comes a pressure to present one’s best self. As one would enhance how they look in person, one can enhance how they look online as well. Photo editing apps such as Facetune, Photoshop, VSCO and many others allow their users to remove their flaws and to turn oneself into a como,geeky different person.. 

When asked if she would feel comfortable posting an unedited photo, Sciortino very quickly said, “No… everything that you can imagine for editing a photo I do before I post.” She will spend as much time needed to pick the perfect photo, edit the lighting, and come up with a good caption. “It’s all just a part of the social media process,” Sciortino said. 

This pressure Sciortino feels to present the best version of herself is one placed on her by both society and herself. 

On an individual level, Sciortino edits her photos to make herself look better for her own pleasure. Through her editing she is able to create a better, flawless version of herself, which is something that many people do. However, she also edits for the approval of others. 

Every photo one posts matters, and since everyone is judged on the same scale, the effort one puts into posts plays a huge role in the judgement of others. “If someone posts something that they look bad in or that is not seen as a good post, they get talked about,” Sciortino said. It is because of this that she edits her photos for others. It is the fear of judgement from others that drives one to edit their photos.

It is natural to want to make oneself look better; however, social media takes this to an unhealthy level. Through editing apps, people are able to turn themselves into a completely different person. How a person looks online versus in person is a major difference.

This culture of changing oneself to where they are unrecognizable from how they look in person is detrimental to the self esteem of both the viewer and the poster.

Despite the common belief that it is only younger girls who edit their photos, a study conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of The Renfrew Center Foundation found that, though seventy percent of young women edit their photos before posting, so do fifty percent of men in the same age range, as well as sixty percent of adults with young children. This shows that the need to improve one’s image is not one felt solely by the younger generation, but by people of all ages.

Despite these statistics, at NDP male students tended to not put much, if any, 

time into editing their photos. “I just don’t care enough to if I’m being honest,” NDP Senior Austin Layne said. Layne feels social media should be fun, not a competition. 

“I do not feel pressure to edit my photos that I post online, but I can understand why others do,” Ward said. 

As someone who does not actively post on social media, Ward feels he has no reason to edit photos; however, he can understand the rationale behind editing photos. “I may not care enough to edit my photos, but I understand why one would want to present the best version of himself online,” Ward said. However, he does have a limit. “Small editing and removing blemishes is understandable, but when someone doesn’t even look like themself, that’s and issue,” said Ward. 

“In girls and guys alike, I see almost daily posts that are so edited that they look nothing like the person does in real life,” Ward said. Hours are spent editing these photos to look nothing like the original; however, these blatant edits can make a person look worse. “I prefer when a photo is edited to enhance how a person already looks, not to completely change their physical appearance,” Ward said. 

A Way to Show Off:

“Instagram is everyone’s highlight reel, a creative way to express yourself— photographs, fashion, editing,” said influence Nikki DeMar. One only the best times of their lives on Instagram—vacations, parties, fancy events—but what is really happening behind the scenes is unknown.

In a video where she dressed as what she called an “insta baddie(describe)” as a social experiment, DeMar came to a conclusion on how social media affects our perception of reality. An “insta baddie” is someone, usually a girl, who is attractive and constantly posts photos on Instagram and other social media in outfits that are acceptable for online, but impractical for real life. 

In her experiment, DeMar wore clothes that she felt would be widely accepted on Instagram, but not by the general public. She was right. As she walked around in her outfits, some people did not bat an eye, but others gave her dirty looks and were mean to her based off of what she was wearing. 

“We are growing up with an Instagram culture,” said DeMar. The way we dress, speak, and act has been completely altered by social media. Social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat blend what is real and what is fake to create its own atmosphere. This promotes the idea that we only see the good parts of someone’s life while the rest is hidden. 

Through social media, teenagers, have been exposed to new pressures that only the modern generation has ever dealt with growing up. Because of this, it is harder for them to realize that social media is not an actual representation of someone’s real life.

Avoiding Social Media Addiction:

Although some students are unable to, others are able to see both the real and fake parts of social media. NDP Senior Gillian Cunningham has tried out some social media, but finds them boring and sees no merit in them. “I would rather experience things in real life or through texts and calls,” Cunningham said.

“I prefer to see things how they really are, not a modified version,” Cunningham said. With how highly edited photos are online, she does not want to see what everyone else posts because “it is not real and I do not care enough.” It is this mindset that differentiates her from her peers. 

Unlike those students who spend hours scrolling through social media, Cunningham prefers to put her phone down and do other things. She sees social media as the place where people go to post about their lives, but an edited version. “There are always highlights and low points in life, and only projecting the highlights is something I find unhealthy,” Cunningham said. 

Another student who tries to stay away from excessive social media use is NDP senior Anne-Elizabeth Brinton. Though she has social media, Brinton tries to balance her social media use with time away from her phone. “I avoid social media addiction by surrounding myself with people I genuinely want to spend time with,” said Brinton. 

It is this want to live in the now and what is really happens that makes Brinton and Cunningham similar, and could be why they both do not feel the need to use social media constantly. Both value taking time to get away from technology, unlike others who get lost in their social media browsing.

Brinton credits social media addiction with individuals wanting to “live through the lives of others because it provides them with a false reality.” With all of the possibilities of social media and its constant presence in one’s life, it is easy to see how social media can be used as an escape from reality. 

In Conclusion:

Over the past two decades, the internet has revolutionized society and altered the way people interact. Every aspect of a person’s life can be found online, giving outsiders a front row seat to one’s life. 

This small peek into other’s lives creates major pressure to show off one’s best self and hide any potential flaws online. This pressure makes one feel the need to conform to society in order to gain acceptance from others through followers, likes and comments. 

Social media like Instagram and Snapchat have become ways for one to show off the good aspects of one’s life, but what is posted online is not the full picture. As one edits their photos, they edit away the negative aspects of their lives.

NDP students are no strangers to the impact of social media on their lives, and have been affected in many different ways. Some students have become addicted to their phones, having their lives revolve around what happens online. Other students have been able to fight off addiction, and though they use phones, do not feel a constant need to be on them.

Through interviews and research, it can be seen that, though social media use affects everyone, it does so in different ways. All have been altered by the introduction of social media into daily life, but not always necessarily for the worse. Therefore, social media cannot be condemned as entirely bad or praised as entirely good, but as something one must explore for themselves. 

NDP senior Hanna Jacobson multitasking during her study hall on Dec. 11, 2019. Staff photo taken by Jarod Bogsinske.