Social Media and Students

I came across this powerful video today, by Australian teen Essena O’Neill. She talks about why she’s quitting social media and the damage she feels it has done to her and her life over the past three years. It honestly was such a wake-up call.

I am affected by social media. It has become a part of my lifestyle both good and bad. From Instagram posts promoting my writing to education blogs on my teaching strategies, I am using it every single day. Sometimes this is fine. Sometimes I’m using it to promote positive thinking and classroom goals. But it can become obsessive. And this is what Essena reveals in her personal, emotional, and unedited YouTube video.

**Caution: video contains strong language**

In this 17 minute  video (watch the entire thing–it’s worth it!) this teen shares her most intimate and heartfelt moments, being brutally honest about how social media made her self-focused, self-obsessed, and ultimately unhappy. She says she had the ‘dream life’ but felt depressed and empty because her self-worth was determined solely by what others thought of her and how many ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ she had on her photos and page.

This struck a cord with me. Now whether or not I agree with some of the anti-Essena videos, saying that she is marketing her image and new website for money is irrelevant. What I truly believe is that she has a point. Today’s youth is social media obsessed and social media burdened. And this is a relevant issue to the education world.

Young children–this teen was only 12 when she started becoming obsessed with her online image–are seeing themselves negatively because of the posts and bodies they see online. Essena admits to editing, changing her figure, obsessively exercising, cutting calories, and taking 50 pictures just to get the perfect Instagram post. That’s crazy!

I wish there was an easy answer for fixing the social media problem. The only thing I can truly see will help, as of now, is awareness. People–young, old, male, female–need to become aware of the problems social media can cause when it becomes a huge part of one’s life and one’s form of acceptance and self-love.

When I think about my students, I’m disheartened by the thought that they may see themselves as worthy, solely because of their likes on a Facebook post. I wish I could share this video with my students, especially high school students. Despite the strong language, I think that what Essena is saying is so real. She gives viewers her heart and seems to care only about spreading her message. I’m thankful for her willingness to be honest and put herself out there. I can only hope that she starts a trend to lessen the value of social media in today’s society.

To read more about her, check out her page: Let’s Be Game Changers.

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