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Social Media and You, Part 2

Local teens find community through social media

Studies show teens see apps, platforms positively, but with pressure
By Emma Testerman | Apr 01, 2021
Photo by: Tim Mossholder

This is Part 2 in our three-part series on Social Media and You. Next week, we will discuss social media as it is used in the political arena.

In the past 10 years, generations have witnessed the technological boom of social media platforms divvied out as sources of entertainment, connectivity, education and creativity. While older generations may remember when MySpace, AIM Messaging and Facebook came to pass, others quickly followed in suit.

With consideration of the growth of social platforms — such as Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and Discord — parents of young adults, specifically teenagers, understand that being connected online is not only a source of community, but can pose dangers such as cyberbullying, stalking and other forms of emotional and mental unsafety.

In an email interview over the subject of online community downsides, Winter Adams, an Oceanside High School student in Rockland, said, "I think the stranger danger [phrase] applies everywhere, and I tend to only befriend people I know or have met a few times. It's not as bad like in real life, because you can block people or unadd them."

With safe online practices in mind, many local teens voiced their opinions on online communities they're involved in, and which are best suited for their interests, education and also in expressing themselves.

In a 2018 article written by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, it says that "surveys show that 90% of teens ages 13-17 have used social media. 75% report having at least one active social media profile, and 51% report visiting a social media site at least daily. Two thirds of teens have their own mobile devices with internet capabilities."

The social media platform Facebook has recently been losing a large interest in younger audiences, mostly because of the variety of other options social media users can pick for an online presence.

Winter Adams, an Oceanside High School student in Rockland, said she uses Facebook and Snapchat as her primary platforms. "Barely any of my friends use Facebook anymore, so I mostly use Facebook for talking to my family and seeing what's going on in other people's lives. Snapchat is a favorite because I can easily chat with my friends and it's fun to take pictures with my little brother and the filters. I prefer these two because I feel like there's the least amount of influencer drama."

Chloe Bossow, of Waldoboro, the daughter of Paige Bossow, also said she mostly uses Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram. "Facebook is more for older people," she said.

In light of the pandemic that struck Maine in March 2020, a recent spike in social media use was recorded for teenagers. The Academy states "on average, teens are online almost nine hours a day, not including time for homework."

This does not include any recent statistical data on online use during quarantine, at present.

Teens, during this time, have found ways to connect to others with similar interests and backgrounds to socialize and get to know others across the country, even world. Often, teenagers view social media as a way to express their religious and/or spiritual identity, gender, sexuality, and spread awareness of any struggles or joy they experience through apps like TikTok and YouTube.

The Pew Research Center, in a study conducted in 2018, said that "by relatively substantial margins, teens tend to associate their social media use with positive rather than negative emotions, such as feeling included rather than excluded (71% vs. 25%) or feeling confident rather than insecure (69% vs. 26%).

"Young people also believe social media helps teens become more civically minded and exposes them to greater diversity — either through the people they interact with or the viewpoints they come across. Roughly two-thirds of teens say these sites help people their age interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds, find different points of view or show their support for causes or issues."

When asked about finding community online, Adams had this to say. "I love when I find a community that shares my interests. I'm a part of a bunch of vivid reader groups on Facebook, and I love that you can be accepted no matter what."

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