Teens Redefine Social Media Norms: The Pursuit of Authenticity over Perfection


In the modern world where every teenager’s thumb knows the rhythm of scrolling, where toddlers are handed smartphones in cradle, and where schools shutdown due to pandemics erasing the warm tangible bonds of friendship and camaraderie, living the digital life isn’t a choice but a necessity underscored by updates and likes. Overshadowed by the whims and warnings of those who never themselves tasted the frenzy of viral posts, this generation’s link to the world gazes into the endless spiral of the social media abyss. These digital frontline warriors have begun to realize the dos and don’ts of this brave new world and are keen to lend their wisdom to those who are now dipping their toes in the world of likes and shares.

In Nashville, Tennessee, Bao Le, an 18-year-old freshman at Vanderbilt University, shares his experience about the unspoken social media pursuit of perfection which can skew and distort one’s perception of reality. “It’s so easy to feel the jealousy prick when a friend posts about their new car,” he says. Redefining what social media truly stands for, Bao clarifies that most social media stories are just a glittering frontage masquerading as reality, masking the other 99% of ordinary life most of us live.

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Meanwhile, the 22-year-old senior Doreen Malata from University of Maryland offers some simple yet profound words of wisdom – “Don’t take it too seriously!”. Doreen’s advice stems from her worry for the younger generation who are losing their innocence in their rush to emulate their social media idols. She lives by a simple mantra, “It’s OK to be 12. It’s OK to be young. It’s OK to enjoy childhood.”

Across the nation, Sienna Keene, a 17-year-old high school senior from Orinda, California, echoes Doreen’s concerns and encourages parents to enforce time constraints on device usage for their younger ones. She ardently believes she, or anyone else, should succumb to the addiction of TikTok.

Emphasizing the importance of digital detox to relieve a suffocated psyche, Ava Havidic, 18, Broward County, Florida admits that the overwhelming flow of content on social media can wash over you. Styles, fashion models, trends can consume you before you even realize it.

Lea Nepomuceno from George Washington University prescribes self-exploration and individuality as the cure for social media fatigue. She turns the tables on the term “social media user.” Lea wishes she’d known the importance of self-discovery in making a positive and fulfilling use of social media, instead of using it as a comparison tool.

Same sentiments are echoed by Mikael Makonnen, a freshman from American University; Nour Mahmoud, a junior from Virginia Commonwealth University; and Madeleine Maestre, a freshman from Santa Clara University. Makonnen condemns social media as a wasteful activity that offers only short-term satisfaction, Mahmoud emphasizes learning over self-promotion, and Maestre invites users to establish boundaries and protect their cyber presence.

These teens and young adults emphasize the importance of self-awareness and being true to oneself, bringing a refreshing perspective on using social media responsibly. Social media is a powerful tool for expression and connection in the modern age, but it always helps to remember, as articulated by these young voices, that it’s not a mirror for self-worth or a measure of life success.