Teens Take Control of Social Media


Senior X lies awake waiting to get the letter from the admissions office from the college of her dreams.

Dear X: We are sorry and very sad to inform you that after reviewing your social media accounts, we are forced to deny you admission to our fine institution.

This letter, though fictional, is not impossible. Students are increasingly realizing that they need to be mindful of their online footprints. College admissions officers hoping to learn more about applicants can find applicant’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and look for inappropriate content, which could be taken into consideration for your application.

Whether you use social media or not, this social connectivity is a part of everyone’s lives. According to Pew Research Center, 71% of adults use Facebook and 23% use Twitter. As more and more adults have made their way on to Facebook, however, many teens have turned to other sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and a relative new-comer, Snapchap. These sites tend to have fewer adults, offer more anonymity, and in some cases support new ways of extending conversations. Most importantly perhaps is the trend towards using media that has fewer adults. What teen wants a site filled with aunts and uncles, or worse yet, a future boss or admissions team?

The answer is none. But what precisely makes these sites more attractive than the old standby, Facebook?

Instagram, the first of the three sites, has 150 million users. On the site, people can follow celebrities, comment on their friend’s pictures, and post pictures of themselves. Many like Instagram because it’s a way of literally “showing off” one’s life or experience. For the most part, posts are positive, sometimes even artistic or funny. The site typically does not have a lot of parents lurking around. Parents can’t just look up their child’s name to monitor her posts, because for most, a student’s Instagram name is not her full name. This anonymity allows for students to post unfiltered content that can sometimes be offensive or even dangerous, without a prospective college, an employer, or even simply bunch of family members judging them.

“I use Insta because when I am bored I will go on there and stalk people. All my friends have an Instagram, so I can follow them. The site is filled with young people, and it is really fun. Instagram is hip, ” says anonymous junior.

Though not a new site and not one in which posts disappear quickly, teens have found that Twitter offers unique ways to extend conversations. Though the site doesn’t offer anonymity, many teens use the site in ways that few adults do. The site invites users to post 140 characters in a Tweet. For teens, Twitter is often used for funny/agreeable posts, where they can share what they are thinking and feeling. Some teens users have developed their own unique applications for the site. Younger users have been known to use the site to continue conversations out of context using something called a sub-Tweet, a term to describe when teens continue a conversation they had with someone else by indirectly responding to them in a Tweet. For example, if Jill and Joe are in a fight, Jill might sub-Tweet “Ugh so annoyed,” and Joe can assume that she is annoyed at him.

The next site, Snapchat, is a place where over 350 million “Snaps” are sent across the earth, daily. Users cannot see what other users post unless a user accepts their request. Perhaps most importantly, a “Snap” (a picture or video) disappears in ten seconds. Users can add filters or write captions. Teens use Snapchat because the quickly disappearing post allows users to feel they are free to post anything they want. But this quickly disappearing information can be dangerous. Some teens use this site for posting and receiving questionable content.

“Snapchat is more entertaining than Facebook and texting because you can make pictures really funny. Also, there aren’t a lot of adults,” says senior Sierra Dickerson.

“I use Snapchat because it is a fun means of communication without having the annoyance of an adult. I don’t send nudes, but some people do,” says Josh Silverman.

“I like Snapchat more than Facebook because it is easy and less serious. I have never sent anything “dirty” but I have received [questionable posts],” says anonymous junior.

Though some teens have mixed views on Snapchat, they all agree that it is a good way to communicate without college seeing because it disappears and parents can’t find their posts.

These three sites have gained popularity with teens and have sparked the migration from using only Facebook to using a combination of Facebook AND Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat.

The change in social media among teens is growing, with the new image-based sites, the lesser of adults monitoring, and the anonymous aspect. The trends in media have adapted as teens have too. Now that colleges and jobs check a person’s online footprint, social media has changed to allow anonymity. Because more adults have moved to Facebook, teens have migrated to use other sites as well. Who knows where the social media world will be for teens in the future. Twitter offers teens a new way to communicate given their unique way of Tweeting through new ways to extend a conversation. The image focused communication, anonymity, and new ways to extend a conversation are going to change the world of social media, forever!!!!!