Students choose to pause social media usage

Laurel Wang | The Chronicle

Mason High School (MHS) students are unplugging to recharge.

From Schoology assignments to pre-bedtime scrolling, the digital age has permeated almost all aspects of students’ lives. A 2022 report from Pew Research Center found that 95% of teenagers use at least one social media platform and 46% report being online almost constantly. However, some MHS students have decided to press pause on their scrolling.

Senior Catherine Fitzpatrick elected to take a break from TikTok towards the end of November in order to be more productive. Fitzpatrick realized she spent three or more hours scrolling through the app every day, and wanted to make better use of her time, but said she worried about missing out.

“A big worry I had was feeling like I wouldn’t be connected with people,” Fitzpatrick said. “Especially since social media is used to talk to people, [I was worried about] keeping up with trends.”

Junior Jillian Wu first deleted TikTok during a church retreat in an effort to disconnect from social media. She planned to be off the platform for only the week of the retreat but ended up not redownloading it for six months.

Like Fitzpatrick, Wu worried that being off social media would cause her to disconnect from her peers, as social media was her primary source of news and trends. However, she realized her worries were unfounded.

“I thought I was gonna turn into a millennial because I wouldn’t have the same humor anymore,” Wu said. “I wasn’t up to the day-by-day trends, but I still caught up with things and [realized] I wasn’t really missing out on much.”

Wu recently redownloaded TikTok to keep up with the World Cup but feels she has fallen back into her old patterns of high usage. Still, she feels the time she spent off the platform helped her better manage her time.

“I think taking a break was really beneficial, especially if you find yourself wasting a lot of time on TikTok,” Wu said. “Once you just get it off of your phone, it’s so much easier to not distract yourself with it.”

While some students elect to delete platforms that take up the most time and attention, others choose not to use social media at all. Senior Ahan Datta holds no social media accounts outside of a professional Twitter account he uses to connect with the eSports world. Datta prefers to socialize with others face-to-face and feels he gets more out of an individual in-person connection, rather than projecting to the internet.

Although Datta feels comfortable with being off social media at the moment, he acknowledges there is pressure for teenagers to have social media accounts.

“Connecting with people is harder if you don’t have [social media], but it’s not impossible,” Datta said. “Often [I] get into a class with someone and they’re like ‘What’s your Instagram? What’s your Snapchat?’ and I don’t have one to give. It’s a little bit awkward, but we can always just text.”

Fitzpatrick believes that stepping away from social media has allowed her to reflect on herself and find new hobbies. As graduation nears, not being on social media can make it harder to keep in contact with friends. However, Fitzpatrick said staying away from it emphasizes putting effort into maintaining real relationships rather than relying on online connections.

“Now I feel like I’m actually doing something to actively continue out the relationship rather than just passively keeping that contact,” Fitzpatrick said.

Datta believes that everyone should be more accepting of others’ social media usage, deeming it ultimately a personal choice.

“I don’t think people should be judged if they have social media or not,” Datta said. “People should be free to use their time and talk to whoever they want. I don’t think there can be an argument that social media is objectively good or bad, because you’ve got people from both sides.”

For now, Fitzpatrick believes that although she has chosen not to be on social media due to her personal experience with its adverse effects, there are still positive aspects to these platforms.

“I do think social media can be used for good,” Fitzpatrick said. “You can bring awareness to social issues or even light to voices that might not be heard, but it’s all [in] how you use it.”

What age should kids start using social media?

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms. Here is what students at MHS believe: