Beyond the Likes: The Realities of Social Media Influences on Youth

Social media has undoubtedly transformed the way we communicate, connect, and consume information. While it offers numerous benefits, the rise of social media use among youth raises concerns about its potential negative effects on their emotional, mental, and physical health. As parents, grandparents, teachers, and mentors, it is essential to understand the realities beyond the likes and shares and help young people navigate social media mindfully.

The Power of Social Media

Social media provides a platform for young people to connect with friends and family members, access information and resources, and create and share content. It enables them to express themselves, showcase their talents and creativity, and participate in communities that share their interests and goals. Moreover, social media can facilitate positive social change, providing a way for young people to raise awareness about issues they care about, and mobilize others to take action.

The Dark Side of Social Media

While social media has its benefits, it also poses challenges and risks for young people. One of the pressing concerns is the impact of excessive social media use on their mental health and well-being. Studies have shown that social media use can contribute to anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders[1]. The pressure to present a perfect, curated image and the constant comparison to others online can also take a toll on young people's self-esteem and confidence.

Additionally, the rise of cyberbullying and online harassment has added a new dimension to the problem. Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying can affect young people around the clock, making it harder to escape and recover[2]. Moreover, social media platforms can create an environment where anonymity and impulsivity can lead to hurtful comments and toxic behaviors.

Impact on Self-Esteem and Body Image

Social media can also influence young people's body image and attitudes towards themselves. The prevalence of unrealistic beauty standards, filtered and airbrushed images, and cultural stereotypes can contribute to negative body image and eating disorders. Moreover, the pressure to conform to mainstream ideals and the fear of missing out on social events and trends can create intense social pressure for young people.

Influence on Relationships and Interactions

Social media can affect the quality and nature of relationships and interactions among young people. While it can facilitate communication and bonding, it can also lead to a phenomenon called "phubbing" - the act of ignoring the person in front of you in favor of the phone. Moreover, the superficial nature of social media can lead to a lack of authenticity and intimacy, making it harder for young people to form genuine connections.

Navigating Social Media Mindfully

To minimize the negative effects of social media and reap its potential benefits, young people need to learn to approach social media mindfully. This involves setting boundaries, managing time, and cultivating a positive online presence.

Here are some practical tips for youth to navigate social media mindfully:

  1. Set boundaries: Limit social media use to a reasonable amount each day, or take a break altogether to prioritize real-life interactions and experiences.
  2. Manage time: Use tools and apps to reduce distractions and manage screen time.
  3. Cultivate a positive online presence: Share content that reflects authentic and positive self-image, support others, and avoid engaging in toxic behaviors.

Empowering Youth in the Digital Age

As parents, educators, and mentors, we can support youth in navigating social media and ensuring their well-being. We can encourage positive digital citizenship, promote empathy and kindness, and provide resources and support to empower them to use social media mindfully. We can also work together to advocate for safe social media policies, effective protection from cyberbullying, and promote access to mental health resources.


Social media has become an integral part of youth culture, and its influence will continue to grow. However, we must ensure that young people understand the realities beyond the likes and shares and learn to navigate social media mindfully. Whether it is by setting boundaries, promoting positive body image, encouraging healthy relationships, or providing resources and support, we can work together to empower young people to thrive in the digital age.


  1. American Psychological Association: Teenagers More Anxious, Depressed
  2. Effects of Bullying

Stanley Bawalan