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Opinion: The social media ‘virus’ — How to reduce screen time and be present in your life

Most young people spend hours a day on their phones, but it's important to avoid this addictive habit.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/savinawang/" target="_self">Savina Wang</a>

Savina Wang

April 27, 2023
Social media is the new virus that everyone should be worried about. It is putting people into a “quarantine” every single day. More and more teenagers stay home to be on social media instead of going outside or hanging out with their friends. Each new “app” keeps people bound to their bedrooms, scrolling, and looking at other peoples lives that we long to have. This new virus is slowly killing our world and transforming it into a virtual world. 

When teenagers spend the majority of our time on social media, we obviously spend less time on having physical social interaction or experiences that we need to survive in the real world. Kids need to develop instincts. We need to learn how to read social cues. We need to learn how to appropriately respond to stimuli. These are all experiences that can only be had with interactions with other people and the environment that we live in. When we spend more time behind the screen, we lose out on these experiences, and become socially awkward. 

Furthermore, when teenagers spend time on social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram, we are exposed to the edited fake lives of others. We only see snapshots of a person’s life — the best version of that person.

The audience, in turn, “like” these posts because we long for something we cannot have. It is an endless smokescreen. People have yet to realize many things we see on social media are fake, edited, or even set up. 

Some teenagers are impressionable, and cannot differentiate between real or fake lives.  As a result, we can develop insecurities about our looks or things that we do not have. We may also feel isolated or left out because we were not invited to a party or event. Recent studies found that teenagers between the ages 12 to 13 who habitually checked social media influence the way their brain develops

I do not hate social media because I post and am active daily on many social media platforms. There are benefits to social media. It is a way for friends and family to stay connected. Some platforms have birthday calendars, reminding us to celebrate other people’s birthdays. Social media is also great for business and marketing, and a way to communicate about important events. It is not bad to go on social media platforms to see what friends or celebrities are up to, but our priority should be to make the best out of our own personal lives so we have actual real life experiences, and not an alternate, virtual one.

I will admit I am on my phone for most of the day as well. I caught the virus, and am slowly trying to find different ways to treat it. I want to share some of those tips with you.

Have you ever been super excited to tell a friend a story, and when you tell the story, they are on their phone and not paying attention to you? Doesn’t that make you upset that they weren’t listening to you?

I recently learned in my communications class about the “art of listening” — not with your ears, but with your eyes and body language. I participated in an activity with a group of people to learn about the importance of “physically” listening. Person A had to share a heartfelt story, while Person B refused to make eye contact and turned their back on Person A.

After Person A told their story, Person A shared that they felt rejected and no longer wanted to continue because there was no feedback. Even though Person B was listening, Person B gave no signal that they were paying attention.

We went through the demonstration again, and this time, Person B was able to physically engage by making eye contact, nodding their head, and facing Person A. In this round, the conversation was able to last longer because there was feedback. Many teenagers stuck on their screens will miss what other people say to them if they are glued to their phones. Therefore, my number one tip is to put the phone down when someone is speaking to you.

My second tip is to activate the screen time setting on your phone. This tool allows you to limit your interactions with pre-selected applications per day. I know from experience that when I am on social media, I lose all sense of time. I would get distracted with the advertisements, “liking” my friends’ posts, and even “liking” posts from people I don’t even know.

Ten minutes of entertainment would turn into hours of viewing, reading, and scrolling. Screen time allows you to set a reasonable time for visiting social media apps per day, and then the app would freeze when your time is up. When you set screen time in advance, you are able to logically determine how much time is suitable for entertainment. Otherwise, without this mechanism in place, logic goes out the door for most people. 

My final tip is to practice being present. This means putting the phone down, and using your senses to see the world. I know this may sound corny, but try taking a deep breath and feel how the oxygen affects your body, try to smell the air around you, and look at the sky once in a while. This is my way of exercising my senses rather than allowing social media to dictate my senses for me.

With self awareness, we can fight this virus together.

Scholar-athlete Cody Going: off to Division 1

Scholar-athlete Cody Going: off to Division 1

Cody Going has been in Mission Viejo high school’s football program, a team ranked number four in California by MaxPreps, for five long years. From his time in eighth grade to now he’s been able to see the athletes at Mission Viejo High grow from teammates to a...