Sucked in

Social media impacts teens’ mental health


Photo Illustration by Minh Anh Le

I asked Lauren McKenzie ‘24 how much time she spends on social media each day.
“Like two hours,” McKenzie said.
“That’s a fat lie,” I responded.
“Okay, like five or six hours,” she admitted.
When McKenzie started her Instagram account in middle school, she already had anxiety about how she was perceived, but social media made it much worse.
“I changed my personality after getting Instagram in seventh grade,” McKenzie said. Seeing how people reacted, positively or negatively, to the portrayal of herself through Instagram made her actually adjust who she was.
At only 13 years old, McKenzie was already changing herself to fit the media’s standards. Instagram had made its mark on her life.
“If I didn’t have social media, I probably would feel more confident in my looks, abilities and achievements,” McKenzie said. The thousands of posts telling her how to look and act became hard to ignore.
McKenzie’s experience is not unique. In fact, Instagram is detrimental to teens’ mental health, and Facebook, the company that owns the app, knows it.
Facebook ran an internal investigation in 2019. One specific study revealed that of teen Instagram users, 40% of those who said they felt unattractive said that the feelings began while using Instagram. Despite knowing its effects, the company kept this information private until it was leaked in 2021.
McKenzie is just one of the many teen girls suffering at the hands of Instagram. Facebook’s internal research presentation in 2019 said, “Teens blame Instagram for the increases in the rates of anxiety and depression.”
Similar to McKenzie, Skylar Schmidt ‘25 joined Instagram during eighth grade. She has since noticed the effects that it can have on people like her.
“I think that Instagram can definitely give people body image issues,” Skylar Schmidt ‘25 said. “It’s impacted my mental health for sure,” she said.
But it’s not just Instagram. Social media as a whole is putting pressure on teens. “I’ve thought less of myself since social media,” McKenzie said. “I’ve gotten a lot less confident.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, 97% of teenagers have at least one social media account allowing the effects of social media to become incredibly widespread.
Monarch counselor Autumn Coppejans is concerned about what social media is doing to teenagers. “It’s created another layer of barriers for young adults to really find out who they are,” she said.
It’s often easier to focus on negative feedback or comments on the internet than it is to feel confident. “What happens with social media is we post something and we’re hoping for encouragement, but then we focus on one post that is negative or saying you’re not worth it,” Coppejans said.
McKenzie has had first hand experience with such negativity.

“Sometimes someone says something, and you’re like, now I have to change this thing about me because they have 500,000 likes,” she said.
According to a 2019 Common Sense Media survey, teens consume just under seven and a half hours of screen media a day on average, excluding school work. With almost 32% of the day for teenagers being spent on the internet, it’s important to take breaks.
“Some people just have to get off social media to be able to help their mental health and be able to separate; real life is your life, online is not real life.” Coppejans said.
Despite knowing how important it is to step back from social media occasionally, it’s still a struggle. “On social media with all the fake and negative stuff it’s easy to get sucked in,” Schmidt said.