Dear Future President,
Facts and reality are what people perceive them to be. As a student and Junior in High School, my day to day life is intertwined with technology and social media. In school, teachers require me to complete assignments online or visit and research websites. Around 70% of my school work deals with the internet and my school requires that students use the provided Ipads. Outside of school I spend close to 80% of my free time, that I’m not sleeping, online with games or social media websites. The present generation of teens is growing up in a world heavily influenced by technology and social media. Since this world that the internet has created is not a physical place, it’s even harder for people, especially teens, to comprehend that real people are on the other end of their digital endeavors. There is too much internet freedom combined with low security and heavily influenced, impactful, internet norms.
The internet, and more importantly, social media, has become a major part of teens lives. A study done in 2015, by Pew Research Center, reports that 92% of teens report to going online daily, and 71% of teens use more than one social media site (Amanda Lenhart). Now, while these sites and platforms have their terms of service and birthday checks, most of these are not secure. In my experience violators of the terms of service are not punished unless reported by a fellow user. In addition, the age restrictions have no effect on the users. Teens can sign up for a service using a false birthday where their new age is not affected by the restrictions. These faults in the systems result in a huge moral responsibility being placed on teens, one that many are generally not aware of.
Teens are now faced with having access to a multitude of information and deciding what to do with it. When looking at social media sites, a lot of the time, the majority of the information is not true. There are users who post information or pictures that are composed of their opinion over fact. These people in some cases are not genuine and intend to mislead. Some accounts are made to impersonate another account, or they try to cause an uproar by attacking a person or a group of people. This can result in negative or harmful thoughts being spread through the comment section on these sites. The law has often had a hard time defining when the line is crossed from the freedom to state one’s opinion to bullying and attacking another person. This line is very unclear and allows a freedom that teens and adults use without thought.
The freedom teens experience online has created online norms. There are large public opinions on one side of a topic and scarcely anything for the other side. This happens from the pressure people, especially teens, feel to conform to society and the standards set forth. Many opinions don’t get the opportunity to be heard because of the negativity that tears down any idea that does not conform to the majority’s ideas. Even if these different ideas are input into social media, they are buried in the system many sites have set up. These systems are run commonly in a ranking system of what’s trending, similar, likes, or the most recent views. Or, the systems are flawed and buggy.
Norms set up by social media have started to create a false sense of gratification. There is a growing trend and norm that can be seen everywhere when looking at teen Instagram pages. Personally, I have more experience with Instagram over the bigger platforms, but when visiting someone’s Instagram page that is not largely followed because of media coverage, the comments are always positive messages like “you look so hot”, “You’re so perfect”, or “why can’t I be you?” In addition to comments, people look for gratification on social media through “likes” or by asking for it. I have seen many pictures posted by people saying “Like for a tbh and rate.” This means that by liking this post, the user who posted it will send the liker a tbh - to be honest - and rate them out of ten. By liking the picture users are saying in an indirect way that they need gratification from their peers. In the last few years that I have been reviewing posts like this I have never seen a negative to be honest or rate. There’s this unsaid norm that this system is used to make people feel better about themselves. However, many of these are not always true. As it is a requirement to lift people up, people are often lied to about how others feel about them. This creates a false sense of worth and perspective on how others see them.
As a society that is becoming more and more reliant on the internet and social media, boundaries or regulations are needed to effectively protect people, and education is needed on the falsities within social media. This generation looks to you as the leader of this great nation to improve the security of social media and bring awareness to these issues in order to guide the youth of this country and future generations.