I've now had social media for over half my life, creating a Facebook account when I was 12 years old. Since then, I was proud to be nearing 1,000 friends when I was 16, and now, pride myself on barely using social media - other than to communicate, look at memes & animals. Here's what my journey has taught me
Does Social Media Make us Narcissistic or Insecure?
I am currently reading a book called "10 Arguments to Delete Your Social Media", while I highly doubt I will upon completing the book (I'm about a fourth through), it does bring up some interesting points about us not being our authentic selves online. Everytime a user posts a picture, they do so to receive "dopamine hits" through the form of likes, comments, follows, and other positive reinforcements. Though our generation and younger ones did not invent narcissism, we are able to "access" it a lot more frequently while being online...
That being said, our egos can also take a hit when our photos may receive 200 likes, but someone we know received 400. Pre-quarantine, people used to often complain about FOMO while seeing people doing "cool" things online - whether it's travel, going to restaurants, events, etc.
Finding a balance is important, and most of all: your social media exists for you and no one else. If what you're seeing is not making you feel better or even happy, unfollow/unfriend.
How Young is Too Young?
Not being a parent, it's difficult for me to answer this question. My dad has never touched social media to this day, and my mom was about 5 years late to the game. I have a love hate relationship with having family on social media, if I'm being honest, but I'm not even sure if one's children have access to technology if they can stay off social media. For example, my best friend growing up "wasn't allowed" to have a Facebook account, so she phonetically spelled out her first name, and used her middle name as her last name from 8th grade until she was like seventeen. Most kids will get away with it, just like she did. In fact, Mason Disick, a 10 year old, went viral (mostly due to his famous parents) twice, despite Kourtney Kardashian claiming she put parental blocks on his iPad.
While social media age limits should be adhered to in a perfect world, I think it's more important for children to be taught how to safely navigate through social media and the internet at large. There are also kid-friendly versions of some apps such as YouTube and Messenger...maybe one day there will be kid-only/parent controlled social media. Club Penguin, anyone?
Advice for Younger Users?
Cyber bullying was a huge problem in my high school, and I'm sure it continues on to today. If this is the case, please notify an adult as soon as possible (screenshot evidence for proof), report it, and remember - don't feed the trolls who likely wouldn't have the courage to say all of this in person. People often feel like there are almost no repercussions to posting things online...which couldn't be further to the truth.
Something my parents used to always remind me, that I don't think younger kids are told enough (that's it's reinforced, anyway) is that what you post online - it stays there forever. While I remember freaking out in 9th grade hearing that Harvard admissions people would at potential candidate's Facebook for signs of underage drinking (let alone that never applied there and I hadn't been within six feet of a beer at the time), it's made me more mindful overall about what I post - or at least, what I post under my name. That being said, it wouldn't be too hard to find a person's full account list if one has access to their email, so just be careful!
Not to mention, in today's world, data mining is more prevalent than it was when I was growing up. With your searches and cookies being tracked for relevant ads, or just creating personas, it's more important than ever to be as careful as possible - even on something we use everyday, like the internet.
Keep in mind to never share any passwords! Something I was told (and inevitably rolled my eyes at, at the time) does reign true "If your best friend knows your password, your parents have every right to know it, too."
Thoughts about YouTube/Online Videos?
In the age of vloggers and tik tok stars, I bet a lot of kids wish they had what it took to go viral. The secret is that they do. Half the battle of posting these videos, especially at first, is just the confidence to do so. Once someone is comfortable posting, they can easily find their niches due to their interests - even things that people might be ashamed to admit they like out loud (such as a "nerdy" fandom), has such a big following online that it can grow to be a person's community as a whole. Chances are, you're already looking up content for such topics, so feel free to contribute, too!
What are Some Social Media Positives?
Social media has a lot of amazing and positive traits! It lets people stay in touch - myself included as my closest family is a 15 hour flight away, and my parents are a 20 hour flight. It helps one find communities, or even network for better possibilities, and it can even serve as a day-to-day distraction - especially now, when we need it the most. All of this and more is why I'm not likely to delete any of my five remaining social media apps anytime soon - but have learned over the last decade or so, how to navigate it safely and mindfully.