CoA checks in with three Menlo students who have abstained from social media throughout their high school careers. Creative Commons image: Dondy Razon on Flickr.
By Crystal Bai
In the 21st century, social media is an integral part of students’ lives. The majority of students check Instagram or Snapchat every day, and even Menlo announcements like Sea of Gold or spirit day reminders are posted on social media. Despite the community’s heavy reliance on social media, there are still some students who make the conscious decision to abstain from of such applications.
Seniors Ellie Kunwar and Grace Young and junior Will Buxton are three of the few Menlo students who do not use social media. Kunwar’s abstinence from social media stemmed from her parents not allowing it in middle school, but she decided to remain off of it throughout high school because she saw some of the more damaging effects of social media with her peers and family.
For Young, it was never about not being allowed to use social media. In her experience, social media makes people less happy and creates feelings of comparison and competition. "I've seen lots of drama, jealousy, and overall negativity created as a direct result of social media use,” Young said. “I think social media is sometimes used as a platform for competition over 'who can prove that their life is the most interesting.' There is a lot of research that comparing yourself to others is not good for you, so I've decided just not to worry about it.”
Young also values her own privacy, and is uncomfortable with the idea of people looking at what she is doing online without her knowledge. "Basically, I think the word "following" is creepy, and I don't want the added pressure of everyone seeing what I'm doing all the time,” Young said.
On the other hand, Buxton simply does not see the point to social media. "I don’t have time [for social media] and I don’t really care what goes on in it. Social media is a waste of time, and I have better things to do,” Buxton said.
All three students agree that there are both upsides and downsides to not using social media. To Kunwar, the upsides involve more engagement with the real world. "I would say the pros [of not having social media] are that I am not on my phone a lot during the day. A lot of times I'll be hanging out with friends and everyone will be on their phones, but I've never really felt that sort of need to be constantly on my phone,” Kunwar said.
In Buxton’s opinion, not using social media creates less self-comparison and a healthier mental state. “I find that [by not using social media], I don’t really compare myself to others and get socially depressed, like certain people might,” Buxton said.
According to Young, not using social media helps with distraction problems and provides an opportunity to strengthen real-life relationships. "It’s definitely more peaceful without the noise of social media. I've never had an issue with it distracting me from homework or anything. Additionally, I think that not having social media may have even strengthened my friendships, because I have to check in with people in person to see what they've been up to, rather than just check my phone," Young said.
However, Kunwar does sometimes feel like she is missing out on things going on in the community because most people in the senior grade and all of her friends have social media. Young disagrees somewhat with Kunwar’s statement, as she thinks that not having social media doesn’t create a feeling of exclusion. "In the end, I wind up finding about the important stuff. People are nice and they usually just tell me what's going on if I ask them,” Young said. She added that one of the downsides to not using social media is that she is afraid of offending people by saying she hates social media, because everyone is using it.
Despite her personal abstinence from social media, Kunwar does not condemn those who use social media. “Don't get me wrong, I think it's a great way to talk to or interact with people,” Kunwar said. Similarly, Buxton thinks social media is fine for people to use, but from a more business-based perspective. “Companies are making millions of dollars and taking advantage of us and I think that business opportunity does deserve to exist because people are able to make money off of it without being super immoral in the first place,” Buxton said.
Buxton does not plan to ever get social media, but both Kunwar and Young are deciding whether or not to use social media in college. “I think I'll probably get it going into college because I feel like it’s a good way to stay in touch with all of my friends,” Kunwar said.
"I've been debating getting social media at the very end of senior year, so that it is easier to stay in touch with people. However, to be honest, it feels like a huge overwhelming project to get involved with it at this point, because I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm open to recommendations about what to do,” Young said.