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McKenzie Thomas
Jennifer Rodrick
English 115
Sept. 21, 2016
Project Web 1st Draft
Social media has undoubtedly altered every individual with access to a computer’s life.
Websites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Youtube, Vine, LinkedIn,
Snapchat, Pinterest, MySpace and more have essentially taken over the internet. For many
people, it is hard to go for even two hours without checking and updating their social media
pages. Teenagers nowadays have been exposed to this kind of content for their entire lives.
Because of this, youth in this age range have a very prominent presence online. However, as
entertaining as social media may be, there are an overwhelming number of negative effects for
the the internet users involved. Social media can be a harmful influence on a person’s identity
because it immerses people into an unfiltered atmosphere where multiple negative situations may
occur, such as the constant comparison of oneself to another, issues with body image and
appearance, and the possibility of cyberbullying.
One of the main issues that leads to a loss of self-identity with frequent use of social
media is the inevitable comparison that occurs between oneself and other users of the website.
Facebook, for example, is a prime place for people to brag about accomplishments, vacations,
job promotions, and more. Meg Jay, Ph.D. points out that “Facebook can be a place where
‘catching up’ and ‘keeping up’ are less about connecting and more about comparing.” When
looking through Facebook, it is easy to find oneself wishing they had as much fortune as their
family and acquaintances online do. Such comparison can lead to depression because the person

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viewing these idyllic posts may feel inadequate about their own lives and accomplishments, or
lack thereof. Some may argue that Facebook is just a way to keep up with friends’ lives and isn't
meant to cause harm, but it can be difficult for a person to see that everyone else has struggles as
well. In my own experience, I have scrolled through Facebook and thought about how I have so
few exciting things to potentially post about. Even when I try to convince myself that these posts
aren't telling the full story, such as the troubles that these people faced when they were
accomplishing something, for example, it still doesn't work. I end up feeling sorry for myself just
because I don’t have something exciting to update my Facebook friends with. This kind of selfpity leaves me feeling unmotivated and depressed. That type of attitude can lead people to feel
like the only thing that matters is how other people on social media feel about them, creating a
very warped sense of self. Instead of participating in activities that a certain individual enjoys,
the Facebook user may instead do things and go places that they think their online friends would
find interesting. This then leads to an identity that does not actually reflect who a person is, but
instead reflects who others want to see.
Another downside that social media has on its users identities is the issue of negative
body image. For example, Instagram has thousands of accounts dedicated purely to pictures of
“ideal” bodies and pictures of the exact food that the poster believes people should eat if they
want to look and feel good. There are also tons of accounts that post content about exercise and
the foods to eat to achieve a perfect body. Yes, it is perfectly fine to promote healthy eating and
exercise. However, I have run into these body-themed accounts that seem to have an unhealthy
obsession with their appearances. I have even found particularly disturbing accounts that glorify
eating disorders with pictures of severely underweight bodies. Marcela Rojas reports that

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Instagram “[has] given these communities a global platform on which to . . . support one
another's self-destructive behaviors through shared tips and tricks — and promote the notion that
an eating disorder is a lifestyle choice, not a serious mental illness.” Unfortunately, even if kids
do not view these accounts, there are advertisements everywhere on social media as well that
promote “perfect” bodies. With this sort of propaganda being featured nearly everywhere on
social media, it is close to impossible to avoid it. In addition, the target audience for this material
is often young people, teenagers in particular. Since teens make up a large portion of social
networking sites, this kind of content can easily reach them.
[Add picture here in final draft]
I personally had issues with body image in high school. During that time, I would
compare myself to other girls at school constantly. And, unfortunately, because of Instagram, it
didn't stop there. At home, I used to go online and see all these pictures of what I was “supposed”
to look like. For a few years, this caused me to relentlessly try to be someone who I thought I
wanted to be. In reality, the person I was trying to be was not the real me, but instead a person
that social media wanted to see. Thankfully, I recovered from those types of feelings that I had
about myself a couple years ago after deciding to unfollow all of the Instagram pages related to
food and exercise. Though all of those pages claimed to be about health, I now realize that their
real agenda, in most cases, was just to promote looking good and having a body type that is more
socially acceptable. During that point in my life, I did not feel like myself, and I became
someone who didn't even resemble the real me, along with the other teens I discovered on social
media who felt the same way. Again, this impacted my identity greatly because I wasn't being
true to myself.

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One more negative impact that social media can have on the identity of an individual is
the risk of cyberbullying. As Chandra M. Johnson points out, social media “opens teens up to
exponential ridicule or an amplified feeling of invisibility that can influence the perceptions they
have of themselves.” When teenagers are exposed to rude and hurtful comments on social media,
it can be extremely damaging to the way they view themselves and to their identities. This is
because teens are very reliant upon social media to give them feedback about who they are and
how they are living their lives. By posting pictures and videos on Instagram and Snapchat for
example, people are, in a way, asking their followers to review what they have posted and to give
their opinion by commenting or liking their post. If commenters post something mean, this can
have a major impact on the person who posted their picture because the point of the post was to
receive positive feedback, and also to gauge how fun or exciting their daily lives are. Since teens
seem to rely heavily on how others view them, this can lead to a view of oneself that isn't
necessarily real. Just because another person says something mean in a comments section,
doesn't mean that this is the way a teen should also see themselves. Unfortunately, because the
impressionable brains of teenagers are still developing, many kids are unable to see that what
mean people think about them is not really who they are.
In conclusion, social media is place of many positives and many negatives. However, for
impressionable teens, it can be very dangerous. Teenage years are the time for developing a
unique identity that will stick with a person and evolve throughout the course of their lifetime. If
the internet, along with all of the millions of people who use it, is a major factor in shaping the
identity of a person, there can be serious implications. People need to explore their hobbies and
interests through real-life experiences. They need to talk to people face-to-face. And they need
time to do these things without the pressure of having an audience at all times. The future needs

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individuals who are sure of themselves and of who they are, not individuals who need constant
reassurance that what they are doing is what other people want to see.

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Works Cited
Jay, Meg. "Just Say No to Facebook Social Comparisons!" Psychology Today. Psychology
Today, 30 Mar. 2012. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
Johnson, Chandra M. "Growing up Digital: How the Internet Affects Teen Identity." Deseret
News National. Deseret News National, 28 May 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.
Rojas, Marcela. "Social Media Helps Fuel Some Eating Disorders." USA Today. Gannett, 01
June 2014. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.