Editorial: The different pressures of social media

Editorial Board

By now, we all know that social media is fake. What we see on social media is never the whole story and has been edited to reflect whatever narrative that the poster wants to portray. Over the past 15 years, social media has dominated our digital lives, with sites like Facebook and Twitter now becoming so powerful that they can actually influence political elections. But aside from that, increasing alarm is being raised about the effects of these platforms on our mental health. Different generations all have different posting patterns, with social media no longer being just the young person’s game anymore; however, as members of Generation Z, we are the first to have grown up with social media around us our entire lives. As such, we are uniquely equipped to understand the sheer amount of falsehoods and distorted narratives promoted on these platforms, as we ourselves have been subject to and a part of this phenomenon for as long as we can remember. Even so, as the digital landscape continuously evolves, the pressures to post—and how to post—on each platform keep changing.

Facebook remains the face of social media around the world, having gained dominance early on, and then buying up its major competition to remain the powerhouse it is today. Despite its overwhelming influence in our current lives, as it controls narratives, disrupts elections and collects data, we have to be honest—who really uses Facebook anymore? Of course, it is still the most used social media network, but among people our age, its relevance has never been lower. There are a plethora of features across Facebook, including its Marketplace, where you can buy cheap furniture for your new off-campus home, the Events page, where you can see what’s going on in your area, and the News Feed, where you can see the latest questionable posts from your distant family. But in terms of posting ourselves, Generation Z is practically invisible, having delegated the platform to an unhip secondary status, only really posting when our parents force us to make updates so Grandma knows what’s going on.

Instagram, on the other hand, is one of the most popular forms of social media for people our age, despite its ownership by Facebook. However, it is also one of the most filtered. In general, the younger generations post on Instagram for aesthetic purposes and not necessarily to showcase the realities of their life. Instagram stories consist of pretty brunches, social gatherings, birthday dedications and much more. Although, different people face a myriad of pressures from Instagram based on where their content is directed, and women definitely face a distinct type of pressure within Instagram. Some users make sure that there is not a single flaw in their post, but others might not care about perfection necessarily, but value matching posts to fit the aesthetic of their feed. In some form or the other, Instagram posts are curated and are mostly to sell an image of yourself to your followers. On top of aesthetic purposes, there is also the fear—especially for women—of your post getting into the wrong hands. While it shouldn’t matter to anyone else what is on your body, it is entirely possible that a picture where your skirt is apparently too short or your top is too low can be sent to other people for discussion, receive creepy comments or even encounter threatening direct messages. On top of the added pressure to make their life seem aesthetically pleasing, women also face patriarchal issues.

Snapchat, while not as popular as it once was, can be considered more of a casual form of social media. One of the main purposes of Snapchat remains “sexting.” Its most attractive initial feature was the fact that you could send images that only exist up to 10 seconds and if someone screenshotted the picture, you would be notified, which served as a deterrent to saving those images. However, several features have evolved on the app, and now there are several loopholes to save images without the sender knowing. Women also have the unpleasant ability to receive unsolicited pictures they did not ask for and also have to manage disturbing messages. Besides the sexting—or even just sending chats and pictures to friends—aspect of the app, Snapchat also includes other facets. This encompasses the ability to post stories, including private ones, a Spotlight page (which copies the TikTok “For You” feed model), a news feed, fun filters and more. The pressure of Snapchat is not necessarily posting aesthetic stories, since most of the time stories contain the funny or fun aspects of someone’s life, but rather, it’s the pressure of communicating with potential romantic or casual relationships.

Twitter, meanwhile, continues to lose monthly users, with the platform generally being disinteresting to early-teens. The inherent nature of Twitter allows anyone to post their random thoughts, which they assume are worthy of being seen by the public at large. Some of these tweets can be entertaining and even informative. However, with unfiltered thoughts migrating to the internet and people being completely unabashed with their opinions, no matter how misinformed, online discourse has only become increasingly harsh. With 280 characters, people feel sanctioned to speak on any number of topics, whether it be politics, movies or even celebrity gossip, even if they are uninformed and uneducated about the issue. When using Twitter just remember: You don’t always have to say something all the time. Sometimes, in fact, it is better if you say nothing at all. Just because everyone else is discussing something, doesn’t mean you have to or even have the capability to.

TikTok is one of the (if not the most) prominent forms of social media, mostly being used by the youngest generations. The app does not have the same pressures of posting as other forms of social media, however, there is an expectation to be “woke” on every single social issue, or at least have some sort of opinion or say in it. There are different niches of TikTok, although each niche has different obligations to address social problems within the community. For example, on “BookTok,” marginalized creators bring up problems within the book community and publishing industry; however, there are several users who aren’t part of the particular community discussing an issue but still feel entitled to have a say or defend themselves when they have said something harmful. Yes, on different forms of social media, such as Instagram, there is a burden to speak or post on a “trending” social issue, even if they don’t have the knowledge or ability to speak on that same problem. While TikTok carries this same pressure, there is an added pressure to balance between posting entertainment and social issues.

Every form of social media creates a variety of influences and pressures. While there can be good within social media, the younger generations experience adversities within each platform. It’s important to remember that social media is just a glimpse into people’s lives and while it does have a significant impact on today’s society, it is easy to get wrapped up in the intricacies of each platform, which can severely affect our mental health.