The Internet and Us

You had a breakdown the other day because you only owned skinny jeans. Your only hair ties were scrunchies, but that was out of style two years ago; you knew the end of the world was coming. 

Social media has an unavoidable presence in society and acts as a catalyst for several behavioral regularities amongst teenagers and young adults. People live for the latest, for what’s “in”. But do they get lost in it?

Trends come and go and as people indulge in the exciting newness of it all, they fail to realize the cyclic poison that it all really is. To stay on top, to do what’s cool, to never be the first but to never be the last to hop on a trend are all obsessive goals that affect a majority of people that have social media in their lives. Before you begin to exclude yourself from such a party and claim that you have the ability to rationally enjoy social media as it exists, odds are your defensiveness comes from a place of self realization. Because, truly, we’re all guilty of it. It is not hard to succumb to the ease that is social media influence. 

TikTok, the younger generation’s melting pot of ideas, inspirations, and opportunities, skyrockets the charts as one of the most downloaded apps in the world, said Forbes. Unsurprisingly, its target demographic, as recorded by WallaroomMedia, are audiences aged 10-29. Sixty-two percent of users are within this age range, according to the website. What does this mean? It means the younger generations are growing up with, while creative and exciting, a world where the sparkle of facades begin to outshine the real world. 

Maybe it’s not that serious, but maybe it is. The term “digital footprint” was coined to describe the trail of personal data that is left behind when an individual uses online or internet services in any capacity. The reality of online tracking and technological script surveillance is ignored in a large capacity and it is what makes the influence of social media over teenagers and young adults so scary. 

As we get lost in the obsessive need to be present on social media- to be a part of the fame and the spotlight- we forget the age old tale: actions have consequences. Gen Z TikTok user @shoomew, “was shocked when her potential employers found her activity online — and rescinded their job offer because of it,” read a New York Post article on digital footprints. 

The presence that users have on social media, with TikTok as the most recent outlet for such activity, are often not self-monitored because it is so rarely acknowledged that one’s social media presence remains just as potent as their physical one. It can be easy to forget such realities when careers, futures, and reputations are obviously less important than likes, comments, and validation from strangers. 

An especially overlooked consequence of social media is its ability to distort an individual’s worldview. What begins to matter is not your happiness or health, but your ability to look a certain way or act a certain way. You may not always know the answer, but when you break down because you don’t have the same pair of shoes as the other boys in your class or the right shoes, is it because you do not like your shoes or they don’t? Them. The people around you that are similarly blinded by dictating trends. Them. The people behind a screen who do not know you. Them. The people that are also spending their lives with anxiety over elements of life that should not cause anxiety.

It is true, social media can be fun. The sense of togetherness that social media offers, the creativity it inspires, and the opportunities it provides are not sparse; however, beneath social media’s gilded surface is a rotting disease of comparison and ephemeral obsession. Treating yourself is okay, liking what is popular is okay, but not at the cost of your success, potential, opportunities, or mental and emotional state.

It can be easy to get lost in the glimmer of a world that is shaped from trends and materialism rather than reality and responsibility, but it is important to ground ourselves; we are still humans with specific elements of individuality that makes us refreshingly different in a world obsessed with being the same. We have things to be proud of. So, be proud of it.