The Hamilton Spectator

Smiling on the outside, desperate on the inside

Teens suffering from social media’s dark side


I know it seems morbid, but some days I wish there was a way to bury myself and escape from the world.

This desire crawls up inside of me — a desire to curl up in a quiet setting where I can filter out the noise of the outside world. Though I’m aware that it’s not quite possible, it has always been one of my secret fantasies.

Most people took advantage of the COVID-19 period to reflect on their lives. For me, the shutdown was a period of relief; it gave way to a method of evading the truths of my surroundin­gs. However, it also forced me to confront the worst sides of myself.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Is it, though?

Is someone’s willingnes­s to live defined by one flawless fake image, cropped and posted?

This is a question I never knew the answer to until I experience­d it come alive.

There’s thousands of words and a traumatic story hidden beneath a girl’s image. She was a young girl, perhaps 15, who was going through one of the most difficult times of her life, but the smile on her face was all that was advertised to precisely 2,046 of her followers.

My online followers would assume that I was out having fun, when in truth, I was forcing myself to be social in attempt to distract myself from the disaster occurring within me.

In a certain image, although the city was in quarantine, I was outside with a grin on my face. Who would have known that the smile was fabricated? A picture is a snapshot in time, something that freezes the reality around you, something that is so easy to fake — and that is exactly what the essence of this photo was.

I felt forced to indulge in my social media addiction because I had been caged in my home for months. I needed an escape. I scrolled continuous­ly through images of so-called “perfect” models with flawlessly photoshopp­ed features, and I had such a strong desire to be like them.

My daily regimen included locking myself in a room and slouching over a tiny glowing screen, which I thought would suffice as my outlet for happiness.

The intoxicati­ng images of “beautiful” celebritie­s changed my perspectiv­e on life. I struggled with food the most because I wanted to feel and appear as tiny as possible, almost like I didn’t exist.

I was thrown into a deep, dark tunnel that seemed impossible to escape because I was trapped with no end in sight.

Lockdown entirely stole my light; teenagers went from being happy, energetic kids to abruptly lifeless adults, and none of us could have been prepared for this change.

Social media’s fundamenta­l problem is that it holds individual­s to unattainab­le standards, which makes them feel worse about themselves.

It is astronomic­ally contributi­ng to a rise in teenage depression and anxiety, and I am responsibl­e for falling into its trap.

I frequently find myself observing my surroundin­gs, seeing different faces in classrooms or at events while rememberin­g posts made online by these same people. I now know that insecurity is everywhere, so I don’t take what other people write online as accurate reflection­s of their lives.

At some points, I no longer desired to live. However, I flashed a smile in an image that garnered hundreds of likes online, so who would have known?

Teenagers use social media as a modern-day mask to present themselves as someone they are not, and I feel life would be easier if we just allowed ourselves to be honest and authentic.

Though online life can appear to be a haven where we may run and hide from the world, I am living proof that not everything on social media is as it seems. Sometimes, we just need to face the world head on and embrace our vulnerabil­ity.

 ?? SUPPLIED PHOTO ?? Sabrina Slavens writes about her experience as a teenager during pandemic lockdown, and the hidden reality many experience due to social media addiction.
SUPPLIED PHOTO Sabrina Slavens writes about her experience as a teenager during pandemic lockdown, and the hidden reality many experience due to social media addiction.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada