In the article “Using Social Media for Social Comparison and Feedback-Seeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with Depressive Symptoms”, it explains the affect of social media on adolescence, specifically between the ages of 12 and 17 years old. This study questioned if frequent social media usage had positive of negative results on an already critical stage in human development. To start off, the article explains that “the typical adolescent maintains a network of about 300 online friends, meaning behaviors on social networking sites are performed in the presence of an audience,” (Nesi, Prinstein, 2015, p. 1428). The recent advances in technology and mass media have created an environment for adolescence to flourish in like never before. The article indicates that now the roll of peer groups is personified on a greater level than ever before. Especially in a stage of development that already puts a critical importance on the opinion of peer groups (Nesi, Prinstein, p. 1428).
The article’s main points are whether the frequency of social media usage has a positive or negative affect on adolescent development and self-esteem. Positive meaning more popularity amongst one’s peer group and negative meaning depressive thoughts about oneself, such as the belief that others are happier than you, jealousy relating to romance as well as cyber bullying (Nesi, Prinstein, p. 1436). Because this type of study is extremely new and partially unknown, the results in this article were inconclusive. No causation, positive or negative, could be made, especially considering the limitations. The limitations being the means in which the findings were discovered from its population. Because of the age group, and the study being applied using surveys, it leaves a lot to question about the actual reality that the adolescent is portraying to the author. The author adds that further research should be done through actual observation of its population over a longer period. What the author did find, though inconclusive, was that the population chosen did have positive correlations to social media relating to popularity with their peer groups. Conversely, negative correlations were also found, mainly associated with adolescence of a lower socioeconomic status, due to the feeling of comparison and the fear of missing out.
As mentioned above, the adolescent stage of development is one that is focuses highly on the opinions of their peer group as well as one that is searching for ways to identify themselves. According to Erikson, this stage of development is called the identity-versus-identity-confusion stage. In this stage, societal, peer and family pressure are at a distinct high (Feldman, p. 296). Adolescence are struggling to determine their identities, which they are most likely learning through trial and error. This inevitably leads to issues with their self-esteem and comparison to their peers. “Comparing themselves to others helps to clarify their own identities,” (Feldman, 2016, p. 296). Comparison is a normal component of development, although with the most recent generations, that component has been magnified to an entirely new and unknown level due to social media. It has allowed society to display their lives to hundreds and even thousands of online friends. Although social media has allowed the world to connect like never before, it has also taken a massive toll on our younger generations. It has led them to compare their lives to others, become jealous and even think that they are doing something wrong because they are not as happy as what is being displayed social media (Nesi, Prinstein, p. 1436). Social media is ultimately affecting the self-esteem of adolescence which can cause them to question the identities that they have thought themselves to have. This could lead, as Erikson described, to identity confusion, making development into young adulthood more difficult and more emotional.
Because social media is a relatively new issue that has been presented to lifespan development, there is still much to be explained. It is extremely important, because as the world shifts to become more technologically dependent and savvy, so will the current generations, and generations to come. The way that these current generations evolve is going to offer developmentalist critical insight into the future of development. Like how development varies from culture to culture, it will also vary between generations.
Applying this to my life, I can see first-hand how dependent younger generations are on their social medias and cell phones. How involved they become, and how it can make them so naive and self-centered. With my little cousins, teenage neighbors, even my friend’s younger siblings, all the younger teenagers that I have been associated with have had issues with their self-esteem. Mostly of which is their belief that they are ugly, and that no one could ever want them. It saddens me to discover, but it is also relatable, because it is something that I went through as a teenager myself. Because we see online all these beautiful people living such lavish lives and they make it look so remarkable, one cannot help but to compare to their own lives. But the truth is, for these young people in my life and for myself, is that during adolescence, life is barely getting started. They are still so young and will have every opportunity to live how they want and create their own happiness. I think now the best thing that I could have learned and wish to pass on is patience. We will have time to create happy futures for ourselves, but we also cannot forget the moments as teenagers that we will never get back. We must try to live in the moment and look past the façade of social media.
- Feldman, R. S. (2016). Discovering the Lifespan. New York. Pearsons.
- Nesi, J. & Prinstein, M. (2015). Using Social Media for Social Comparison and Feedback
- Seeking: Gender and Popularity Moderate Associations with Depressive Symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 43(8), 1427-1438. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-015-0020-0