TBH is a new social media app that is directed towards kids and teenagers.
CHAMPS Charter High School of the Arts

Opinion: How social media is destroying independence

Social media applications like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter train us to use others’ opinions of ourselves in place of building our own self-image, thus, requiring constant validation from others and eliminating the possibility of complete independence. Continuing this trend of replacing self-value for superficial comments and likes supplied by social media, a new opponent enters the ring with an innocuous appearance but claws sharp enough to make millennials susceptible to damage in their self-esteem for their whole lives.

The app is called TBH, standing for To Be Honest. It is the best example of how detrimental social media is to the self-image of kids and adolescents who have grown up with it. TBH is different from other forms of social media because it is centered around compliments and avoids negativity entirely, whereas the others are teeming with insults and even death threats.

TBH preys on impressionable young kids and adolescents, allowing one to insert their school and grade when creating a profile. It can search for fellow TBH-users in one’s contacts, thus, creating the possibility of entire student-bodies indirectly interacting with each other on the app.

The main selling point of it is that one can anonymously send positive comments to their friends. This is done through polls submitted by all TBH-users and reviewed by TBH employees themselves.

Each round consists of 12 polls that one answers about the four friends randomly selected by the app. After that round, one must wait a certain amount of time before playing again– increasing the addiction to the game– or use three “gems” to buy another round. Gems are collected by playing often, so one’s ability to play longer is increased exponentially.

This is similar to allowing one’s opponent to win in gambling games like poker or blackjack in order to persuade them to continue playing.

The polls include adjectives like “Fearless” or “11/10,” as well as statements like “Most likely to find hidden treasure,” “Sweeter than honey” and “Easy on the eyes.” All polls are positive, intended to make the recipient feel good about themselves.

Herein lies the issue.

TBH turns good-natured compliments into a drug as dangerous as cocaine, it makes someone feel good but that feeling is short-lived, creating a reliance on it. According to Psychology Today, addiction can result when a person engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive (e.g., checking your phone every ten minutes to see if there are any new notifications from TBH) and interferes with ordinary concerns such as health, or mental health in particular.

In addition, TBH shares characteristics with first-person shooting games like Call of Duty. Many adolescents become addicted to these FPS games, sometimes awake all night and forgetting to eat because it is constantly providing small rewards. When a player shoots and kills their opponent, they feel a small burst of pleasure and want more of it, which can be compared to the surge of pleasure one feels when reading their latest compliment from TBH.

TBH also uses a form of in-game currency, as many FPS games do, to represent an almost tangible collection of compliments.

Soon one’s self-esteem turns into a perpetually empty tip jar, raising in substance as more compliments are given and lowering when that initial good feeling wears off.

When one is reliant on a constant stream of validation, they have no real self-esteem.

This can transform into something deeper as well, past one’s appearance or how likely they are to be a reality star.

According to psychologist Ethan Kross from University of Michigan, the use of social media can be associated with increased loneliness, anxiety, depression and an overall decline in life satisfaction.

Kids who did not think they were attractive because no one said they were can turn into adults who do not believe they are deserving of love because they do not think they are good enough.

Typically, one may imagine wounds to one’s self-esteem lying in negative comments on the internet, however, positive comments may be doing more harm than good, no matter how good the intentions.

A friend anonymously asking, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” becomes a quick fix for instant confidence that wears off moments later, rendering it a meaningless tip in the jar of faux self-esteem that lasts as long as one has people to compliment them continuously, which is impossible to maintain.

Negative comments about oneself can be brushed away with the common phrase “haters gonna hate” but the problem that arises with the absence of positive comments has no simple solution.

When one looks in the mirror, do they see themselves or all the different versions of themselves they have been force-fed by social media?

This generation of adolescents and children can never be truly independent because they have been trained like dogs by addictive apps such as TBH that turn their self-image into a game in which the goal can never be fulfilled because the player is always brought back to the start, one step forward and ten steps backward.