This is not another article from an adult telling adolescents that social media is bad. In fact, it’s the opposite. Social media can be a powerful tool for change. We often hear how much time is wasted on social media, or how many people are abused or bullied. However, less reported are the positive uses of social media, such as activism, connecting with others, and increased self-esteem.
Power to Change the World
One of the most amazing functions of social media is the ability to harness its power for change and activism. You may not be able to vote until you are 18 years old, but with social media, you have a voice at any age. In fact, your social media voice can actually carry more weight than the right to vote.
People of all ages have taken to social media more and more frequently to raise awareness for a cause, raise money for things that matter, and to organize public protests all over the world. Through social media, you can connect with people who live next door, and people who live on the other side of the world. You can find like-minded people who care about the same issues as you. You can combine your voices to let people know the issues you care about.
A few of the issues which social media has played a big part in raising awareness include:
• Gun Violence – #MarchForOurLives, #NeverAgain – after yet another tragic school shooting in Florida, students organized protests all over the country via social media to seek changes in gun laws.
• Gender Inequality – #MeToo, #WomensMarch – women all over changed the secrecy of sexual harassment and assault by making it safe for victims to tell their stories. Women also organized a now annual march aimed at removing oppression based on gender.
• Climate Change – #ClimateStrike, #FridaysForFuture – one girl, who happens to have autism, started a movement to get governments to intervene in climate change and save the world. Her social media activism has initiated worldwide protests and activism from all ages.
• Racial Inequality – #BlackLivesMatter, #TakeAKnee – recognizing the injustices afflicting racial groups, people of all races joined in multiple social media campaigns (and many protests in real life, as well) to raise awareness and peacefully protest for change.
• ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease – #IceBucketChallenge – this campaign was to raise both awareness and money for research of this disease. In just a couple of months, because of the viral nature of the campaign, they raised more money than the entire year prior to that.
The Price of Activism
The one negative side of activism on social media is that your voice can sometimes make you a target for hate, including threats. This is always a good time to let an adult know what is going on. If you ever receive a threat on social media, no matter from whom, you need to report it to the platform you are on, such as Instagram. If the threat seems credible or includes any personal information about you or where you live or go to school, you should also immediately go to your local police and report it. Unfortunately, this is a negative risk that comes from being bold and using your voice. However, by being smart and reaching out for help, you can keep yourself safe from any potential real-life dangers associated with social media.
Power to Connect
Social media does not replace our need for real life contact with other human beings, but the power to connect with others, particularly far away, is nothing short of magical. You can keep up with extended family who live far away, and you can keep up with friends you see all the time, too. You can find and “meet” people from all over the world that you share commonalities with, and learn more about them and their cultures. Social media groups help you to interact with circles of family or friends, as well as teams or other groups that matter to you. You can also plan real-life events and get-togethers via social media.
Power to Build Self-Esteem
Many only think of famous cases of abuse or bullying, but the truth is that many adolescents report an increase in self-esteem from using social media. When posting selfies or thoughts, or sharing talents and skills, there is often positive feedback from followers, which increases self-image and confidence. In the end, you can actually have very positive experiences on social media; particularly if you limit access to your social media accounts to those you trust,.
There is definitely such a thing as “too much” social media, and there are bad things that happen on social media. However, there are also incredible things that happen on (and because of) social media. As with everything in life, it is up to you to be wise and make good choices. You can empower yourself and become a part of social change, a part of something bigger than yourself. It doesn’t matter if you have mental health or substance use issues. In fact, you may wish to advocate for those causes with your voice on social media. The power does not actually belong to social media — the power belongs to you. With great power comes great responsibility. Go and use it for good.
Embark is the most trusted name in teen and young adult mental health treatment. We’re driven to find the help your family needs. If you’re looking for support, contact us today!