I met Amelia when speaking at a high school in Central Florida, and was struck by her wide-angle view on the impact of social media in her life, and in the lives of her peers. I thought our readers could learn a lot from her insights, and so I asked her to provide this year’s Teen’s View on Social Media. Let’s continue to validate the voice of youth around us, as they have so much to contribute and their suggestions for improvement are usually right on-point! Here we go:
I am a happy dual enrolled student who is in her sophomore year and located in the Central Florida area. As a student taking eight classes during the regular fall to summer session school year (over half of which are college classes), finding spare time often proves to be difficult. When I do get free time, I enjoy performing, singing, dancing, playing instruments, writing, and studying foreign languages (currently, I speak around 7-8).
I graduated from my middle school in eighth grade with the only Principal’s Leadership Award as well as my first officially released single MV. Online, on YouTube, is where my music video is posted as well as many of my performances. My favorite subject at the time being TV Broadcasting. I have always been outspoken. Scarily, my true nature nearly flipped during the COVID-19 pandemic and era of social isolation.
With all of those accomplishments while being a straight ‘A’ student, I was still fragile and naive just like most teenagers. I was lucky that my parents were always close to me and checking on my whereabouts. Looking back, I now understand that I do not have unlimited freedoms for safety reasons. The rules which my parents put in place as a result of limited freedoms are there for my own safety.
I am not joking. If it were not for my mother checking on me and forcing her way to look at my personal messages and diary entries within that specific period of time due to mother’s instinct, I would not be writing this right now. Unfortunately, when I was thirteen years old I got caught up in a situation where I was being groomed by predatory adults on an interactive science-related website I thought was completely innocuous (I love science!). You just never know where those who intent to do harm to kids can be found. This experience, though frightening and scarring, has opened my eyes to the realities of harm online but hasn’t kept me from embracing social media with as much wisdom and discretion as possible (and with counsel and advice from others!).Towards that end, I want to share with you what I use these days, and why. I will focus on both the bright sides and dark sides of social media by highlighting my personal experience with each platform.
First and foremost, I will bring you to the lighter side!
My parents lead by example with their social media usage. For example, my mother is considered an influencer for Indonesians (although not on a celebrity status scale). She uses her online platform to share knowledge regarding basic English and Indonesian grammar structure as well as positivity in general. Oftentimes, I am in the videos or photos for her Facebook Page.
By far, Instagram takes the crown for the most prevalent social media application utilized at my high school as well as in my local community. Nearly all academic, sports, and fine arts clubs and groups at my school have Instagram accounts (since Gen Z does not typically utilize Facebook over Instagram, more traction is run on these accounts): even the principal holds his own Instagram page for school where he likes to post daily photos of his Nike shoes.
Not only does my school place such emphasis on this social media platform – Most of my friends do just as my favorite artists and language learning pages do as well. This is how we keep effectively updated with one another. The joy I feel whenever I open a daily inspirational quote, book annotation, or language post on my feed cannot be described in words. The same goes for when I see adorable or sentimental and short anime clips on my explore page. Since I do not get much free time during my busy schedule, I cherish having the opportunity to see my favorite things in aesthetic posts.
Next up in line is YouTube. Despite the fact that apps such as Instagram and TikTok have grown significantly in popularity in comparison to YouTube, YouTube happens to be the one application I would consider versatile enough to include its audience ages ranging from a family’s grandmother to a family’s newborn child. Some videos on YouTube are rather lengthy and edited so well that they could be compared to a cable TV show. Videos range from any possible subject one could imagine.
I use YouTube to upload all of my performance videos and song/dance covers. Occasionally, I upload YouTube Shorts, which are similar to Instagram Reels and TikTok videos, on my channel page as well. When I was younger, I used my page to create American Girl doll stop motion videos as well as post photos of the shoots on my Instagram. Although I did make a couple hundred dollars at that time on YouTube, my parents are rather conservative when it comes to education and would not prefer that anything gets in the way of my studies. One day, in my TV Broadcasting class, I complained on my school’s live news channel that YouTube was taking away 25% of my earnings through taxes. Until this day, I still laugh whenever I remember how I complained.
As I previously mentioned, I love music. My love for music sometimes gets me distracted because Spotify always generates personalized playlists for its users based on mood and genre – I find all of my favorite songs here. For example, I love listening to music from different countries in various languages – Due to the fact being that one of those genres is K-Pop, Spotify created a playlist titled “TWICE Mix” with a bunch of K-Pop girl group songs that were on repeat for me from groups such as Mamamoo, ITZY, Le Sserafim, etc. The next top mix on my list is my “Romantic Mix” which consists of classical orchestra and symphonic music, pieces from Adele, Bruno Mars, Indila, Balqees, Hijiri Anze, and many more. I love listening to these playlists when I’m on the go in between classes during the day. It’s difficult for me to pull myself off this music application once I am hooked for this very reason.
“Facebook is for old people!” Well, kiddos – That situation simply is not true 100% of the time. Although I must admit that, yes, my mother uses Facebook far more often than I ever do, I still use Facebook for photo albums and to store memories. The reason why my mother uses Facebook so often is because she is an influencer. I happen to be my mother’s Facebook model, so this is one of the reasons I occasionally use Facebook as well. Some people say that Facebook is for the cheap. I suppose I get that since many of my mom’s Facebook followers from other countries, especially Indonesia, say that they only use “Facebook Lite.”
In the above screenshot, you will find my mother’s Facebook page. This is where my mother posts fun reels, Amazon reviews on her online store as an Amazon Vine and official Amazon influencer, and educational posts for her Indonesian audience. Her posts often consist of basic English lessons for Indonesians since many Indonesians do not speak proper English and instead use a very grammatically incorrect mix of the two that we like to call “Indonglish.”
Duolingo, although known not to be the best of the best, was where the fun in language learning began in my middle school. As a sixth grader in middle school, my world language classes utilized Duolingo to motivate students to compete with each other on the leaderboard toward proficiency in the basic concepts of languages such as Hindi, Arabic, French, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and many more. The gems/lingots which users earn through completing lessons and advancing through the top three in leaderboards can be spent on various upgrades, streak freezes, and outfits – I loved to use my lingots to buy my Duo bird different crazy costumes which he would wear when I was completing a language lesson. Despite its popularity, my mother disagrees with many of the grammar exercises on Duolingo as Duolingo does not teach proper Indonesian, according to her. Perhaps it is merely her standard of Indonesian. Many Indonesians do not even speak with proper grammar. I cannot say I disagree with her because of the many odd examples I have encountered regarding language exercises on the app and website. As we all know, Duolingo’s reputation as the world’s most popular language learning app reigns high – This is why my friends and I loved to use Duolingo to study in middle school, even when the creepy memes started coming out.
Although Duolingo is quite popular, many other targeted language learning and practicing applications such as HiLokal Korean (mostly free), Todai Japanese/Chinese (mostly free), Pimsleur (costs money), Rosetta Stone (costs money), Kawaii Nihongo (mostly free), and Dr. Moku (partly free) exist to aid learners in their language learning ventures with various methods each. In addition to the regular textbook style of learning languages, I love to add apps into the mix so that I do not get bored, feel involved, and get sufficient speaking practice. With apps such as HiLokal, learners get to practice their speech and abilities in foreign languages with online tutors and natives as well as other learners – This sort of experience in language learning to me is priceless. Descriptions of grammar and vocabulary pop up during the session as well to aid learners. I find this feature very helpful to follow along with both listening and reading so that my brain can connect the dots better.
I find WhatsApp so important because my family and I use it to communicate with family from a distance. Communicating with family members overseas and out of state would cost much more and be rather ineffective had we not chosen to use WhatsApp. WhatsApp has a story option, much like Instagram or Snapchat, that disappears within 24 hours. Sometimes, I can see what my family from Indonesia is up to when they upload photos to their stories and I catch them in time. This way, I do not feel as left out when my family is not back at home. WhatsApp includes profile picture and bio-options that users can see whenever they click on the button as well. Sticker packs and gifs are fun to use. My brother, who currently lives out of state, and I like to use these fairly often as well to liven up our conversations. WhatsApp also sends larger photo and video files than regular SMS messages which makes things easier when my brother tries to send me a high-quality video of him and his cat.
The main reason I placed Twitch on the bright side right before the beginning of the dark side portion of this article is the benefits which creators reap from being Twitch streamers and the option for those watching the streams to comment or not. Previously, my brother had recommended me to begin streaming live music on Twitch to gain a larger audience for my performance desires and hobbies. It was only due to a few doubts I had that I did not follow-up with this suggestion. Whenever I came into my brother’s room and saw the crazy gifs and strings of curse-word filled comments in the live chat for Twitch streams, I came to the conclusion that the similarities between Twitch and Discord were immense in a negative light. With enough crazy stalkers on my mother’s Facebook Page already, I felt that I did not want to attract more stalkers who actually had the means (a.k.a. did not pay for Facebook Lite) to do something serious.
Despite this, Twitch does have a few bright sides. Viewers can donate gifts, food, etc (pretty much anything the artist/channel host lists as an exclusive and purchasable subscription item). Twitch gives the artist the opportunity to gain and retain a larger audience through primarily livestreaming as well – Sure, a nice looking and strategic set up in addition to a ring light or two may be required to set up each livestream. However, immense editing will not be required!
Since Amino is an application which houses various fandoms and online communities, I was very attracted to the notion of connecting with people with similar interests and personalities to mine. The online sticker packs and blog post features especially piqued my artistic interest. Unfortunately, when I was thirteen years old, this was the application which led me to a very toxic online community where I discovered the aforementioned science website during the pandemic. Although Amino can be very fun, the communities which exist and the soul-sucking nature of this platform is very toxic. Not responding in time to comments on my posts often stressed me out. The currency, Amino Coins, were very valuable for exchanging with a pro membership or other online services. Times existed where I lost several hours of sleep to enter a contest to earn these Amino Coins I had previously spent on memberships and services. I met several members on the toxic community where I discovered the science website who tried to scare other members into paying for their services or deliberately attempted to brainwash others. I am glad that my parents saved me from falling deeper into such a trap.
As for Snapchat – I do not use this application. However, several of my friends and classmates do. A few of the reasons I do not use Snapchat are the instantaneous location tracking features it holds as well as the quick disappearance of text messages. Having others constantly know where I am at seems quite concerning. If I look back on a conversation with someone and try to retrieve important messages which I did not previously screenshot, they will be permanently gone. An additional reason I do not use Snapchat is its overwhelming feel. Having too many messages on my phone while switching from class to class would detract my focus far too much. I already refrain from checking Instagram too much while on campus.
One thing that is appealing about Snapchat is the filters and “cool” feel of the application. Many cute dog, cat, and animal filters on Snapchat smoothen up the face and enlarge the eyes. Those who have Snapchat are so numerous in amount. Joining could make one feel included in the majority. The peer pressure on this platform is also large and influential.
In addition to Amino, I have had experience with using Discord, a communication platform. This platform was originally used primarily for gamers yet spread across a variety of other interconnected groups over the years. For example, the Anime club at my school uses Discord for communications. Certain servers are more chaotic than others, similar to Amino just minus the blog posts. There are bots in servers as well that may generate random things such as Pokémon cards, cafe foods, names of characters, and more.
Most gamers communicate via voice chat on Discord. There is an option to merely type in the chats as well. Although I am not a gamer myself, I have known and been close to many gamer friends before who have used this application. At some point during the pandemic, I used Discord as well and joined two servers, one of which was a “cheems” (this term refers to the “Doge” meme just even more chaotic) server. The aspects of Discord which create toxicity happen to be very similar to that of Amino. Discord can be very soul-sucking due to the online pressure and cyberbullying that occurs in most gaming communities or even simple meme servers. Such cyberbullying and negativity holes created by these salty gamers are one of the reasons why my parents do not allow me to play video games or use a gaming chat. Many stories exist online of gamers who have used “swatting” (swatting refers to the action which those, typically gamers, take to dispatch many armed police personnel at a specific address by making a prank call to the authorities) after losing to others. Their actions were motivated by toxic communications via Discord.
I have to admit that TikTok was a fun, new, and interesting social media platform at the time when I had it. There were posts under hashtags for my favorite Animes, memes, and aesthetics – I simply could not resist the fun. TikTok’s appeal begins with the short duration of each of its videos, which is typically 60 seconds, the fun and endless filters available for use (much like Snapchat and Instagram), the bandwagon feel of each of its hashtag or sound trends, and the easy exposure for those who use it to market or post. Whenever I posted videos of myself playing the piano or my friends and I screaming over a new or yet to be found Anime trend in middle school, I felt so satisfied at the fact that I had found my community and got recognition online for my fun additions to each hashtag and subtopic. I was not the only one. One of my other close friends posted cosplay videos on TikTok and gained thousands upon thousands of followers for their craft until they were forced to delete the app.
The negative side to TikTok lies in its addictive and peer-pressuring nature. When I was younger, getting addicted to fun apps much like TikTok was much easier given the malleability of my mind and heightened sensitivity of my emotions. There would be days where I felt grumpy or upset because I did not receive my daily dose of Anime TikTok and visual novels. Such an attitude had the power to turn my day upside down if I pressed the wrong button a few times. This was only a small-scale effect of using the application. Various stories of teen “TikTok celebrities” who committed suicide due to a mere loss of followers or likes, even hate comments and cyberbullying, exist. There have been several occurrences in the past where I nearly fell victim to the cruel game of such hateful comments. The extra dangers of this platform only began to occur to me once my parents forbade me from using it after the U.S. government announced that China was using TikTok to spy on Americans’ personal information. This would explain the many suspicious Chinese comments that began to pop up on my account before I deleted the app.
Bringing everything together, the usage of social media and the Internet comes with many privileges, consequences, and responsibilities. Social media addiction is a real issue which has negatively affected the youth to a large extent and continues to victimize teens worldwide. In order to be fully equipped to handle this, teens should turn to their family for support and help. Parents should be monitoring their teens’ activities as well to ensure that nothing serious will go wrong. It is imperative to note which aspects of social media and the Internet are of great use and which ones are dangerous. Regulations, limits, and boundaries are necessary to see where it is fine to turn to the Internet and when it is not. It is only with these limits and evaluations that families and individuals can enjoy the benefits of the online world.