Social media use has recently been shown to increase depression and anxiety, but a new survey of teenagers points out the ways that such sites can be beneficial too. The Pew Research Center has conducted a survey of U.S. teens asking them about their experiences with social media both positive and negative, and the findings show that youngsters are well aware of the benefits and problems of social media use.
The survey was conducted earlier this year among 743 teens aged 13 to 17, so it’s a fairly small sample size. However, the data gathered is pretty in-depth, so it provides some interesting food for thought.
The biggest positive of social media use that teens identified was feeling more connected to their friends, which 81 percent of respondents said helped them. In addition, teenagers valued social media for the ability to interact with different people and as a venue to get support when they were struggling, with 69 percent of respondents saying they think social media helps them interact with a more diverse group of people, and 68 percent saying they feel as if they have people supporting them in tough times.
But teens weren’t ignorant of the problems of social media use like navigating online drama, the pressure to appear a certain way to others, and the pressure to be “successful” on social media by garnering lots of likes and comments. Of those surveyed, 45 percent of teens say they feel overwhelmed by all the drama on social media, 43 percent say they feel pressure to only post content that makes them look good, and 37 percent say they feel pressure to only post content that will get likes and comments.
Other findings were that the teenagers believed that social media helped them to become more civically minded, and that it helped them to find new points of view to engage with. Overall, the teens associated social media use more with positive emotions than negative ones.
One important thing to note is that surveys are not necessarily the best way to gather objective data on an issue. Surveys ask respondents what they think, for example asking if teens feel insecure when they look at social media, but they do not actually measure whether insecurity goes up when exposed to a social media environment. This means that you are relying on survey respondents to have considerable self-insight when answering questions, and trusting that they are answering honestly. However, the results of this particular survey do show a balance of positive and negative responses to social media, suggesting that the teens are self-aware about how social media affects their lives, and that they do think critically about this issue.