Scrolling through your social media feeds or adding your own posts can be fun. But spending too much time on social media can take away from your real-world relationships. Anything that you post online is there forever, so it’s important to think twice before sharing certain things.
Let’s talk about how social media can affect you and what you should watch out for.
How can social media affect people?
Social media can:
- Change your mood, for better or worse. You might scroll through social media to cheer yourself up when you’re bored or unhappy. Or after you post something, you might keep checking to see how many “likes” you’ve received, which can cause your brain to release feel-good chemicals. Social media can also make you angry or upset. You might find out that your friends did something without you. Or you might think that everyone else on social media is better looking than you, which can lead to you having a negative body image.
- Distract you from real life. When you spend too much time on social media, it can impact your schoolwork, your job and your real-life relationships. If you’re scrolling social media feeds at all hours of the day or night, it can also impact your sleep. This can affect your physical and mental health.
Why does what I post on social media matter?
What you post on social media can impact you now and in the future. Here are a few reasons you should be careful what you post:
- It can be viewed by anyone. Even if you think you have your privacy settings set to the highest level, people can share your post, putting it in the hands of someone you may not want to see it. People with the wrong intentions also know how to bypass privacy settings.
- It will live on forever. Once something is online, it lives there forever. Even if you delete a post or are using an app where posts disappear after a certain amount of time, someone can take a screenshot and reshare it later.
- It could impact your schooling or work. Colleges and employers often look at a person’s social media profiles before they are accepted into the school or given a job. You don’t want something you post today to impact your life or career later.
How can I care less about what others say on social media?
Spending less time on social media may help you care less about what other people are doing and saying online. It can also help you feel more focused on your life and your friends in the real world. Try limiting your social media usage to an hour or less each day.
Turning off notifications can help you stay off social media more. If you don’t get alerts every time someone tags you or “likes” your posts, you’ll end up checking your accounts less often.
Here are some other ways you can care less about what others are doing on social media:
- Follow accounts that make you feel good. Following people who post things that make you smile or laugh can help you care less about others who are just trying to stir up drama.
- Keep your most private thoughts to yourself. You can’t get hurt by people disagreeing with you if you don’t share your deep thoughts on social media in the first place. Talk to someone in real life when you want to discuss something important.
- Block cyberbullies or exes. Unfollow, block or pay less attention to those who make you feel bad or those who try to pressure you to do things you don’t want to do. Checking an exes feed to see they are dating someone new or trash-talking you can make you feel worse. It’s ok to deactivate your account for a while, especially after a breakup.
- Remember that what you see on social media isn’t always reality. People usually post the best pictures and the best parts of their life on social media. Try not to compare yourself and it can help you care less what others are posting.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is using an online platform, like social media, to say mean things about someone with the intent to hurt that person.
If you are the target of cyberbullying, you may feel embarrassed or worried that your reputation has been ruined. You may want to avoid looking at your social media accounts or even seeing people in real life.
People who cyberbully should know the consequences. It can end friendships or they can get into trouble with their family, school or even the law. Schools usually have cyberbullying policies that are effective even when a student is being targeted outside of school hours. And the police may become involved if physical violence is threatened.
What should I do if someone is cyberbullying me on social media?
You might feel like curling up in a ball and never showing your face again. Instead, talk to a parent, ally or trusted adult about the cyberbullying to figure out what to do. Here are some ideas:
- Change your settings. Block people from your social media accounts if they cyberbully you and change the privacy controls on your account to limit who can see your posts.
- Keep track of attacks. Take screenshots of cyberbullying attacks and write down the date and time of each attack in case you need the information in the future. Share this information with a parent, ally or trusted adult.
- Report attacks to social media apps. Cyberbullying violates the terms of service for all social media platforms. If you report the bullying to the social media platform, they may remove offensive posts.
- Report attacks at school. Most schools have anti-bullying policies (including cyberbullying), which can be helpful if the cyberbully goes to your school.
- Report attacks to the police. Sometimes, cyberbullies threaten their targets with physical violence or try to make a person hurt themselves. If that happens, reach out to the police.
What is sexting?
Sexting is sending or sharing sexual photos, videos or messages through your phone, computer or camera. That means showing any nudity or sex acts through photos or videos or talking about sexual activity through messages.
If someone asks you or tries pressuring you into sharing photos of parts of your body you are not comfortable showing, especially nude photos, say no. Tell a parent, trusted adult or ally immediately.
And if you sext, remember, there can be consequences.
The person receiving the photos, videos or messages can share them with others, and once the information is out there, there is no getting it back. If a friend shares sexual photos, videos or messages with you, and you share them with someone else or post them to social, this is a form of bullying and sexual harassment.
It’s also illegal to share nude pictures of someone who’s under 18. The police may become involved if you post any photos or videos of an underage teen, including yourself, on social media.