Guest Blog by Alexa Mendes
As a 16-year-old high school student, I am a part of the first generation to have grown up with social media.
In fifth grade, I liked my first picture, uploaded my first post, and made my first comment on Instagram. In sixth grade, I fervently updated my story, built up my best friends list, and sent streaks on Snapchat. In seventh grade I worried about posting too little or too much, constantly thought about my online presence, and felt overwhelmed. In eighth grade, I stopped using social media.
By ninth grade, I understood that the answer was to use social media in moderation.
In my book, #Unsubscribed: How I am thriving in high school without social media (and you can, too), I share my experience of being consumed by social media and my journey of ultimately learning to use it in a balanced way. I also include a teenage perspective regarding various aspects of social media and finally provide some practical tips for using it in a balanced way.
Yet the process of finding balance can be challenging. Even if we have come to realize that cutting back on social media usage would be beneficial, we fear that in doing so we’ll become isolated. However, in my personal experience, I felt more lonely while using social media than when I didn’t use it at all. In fact, by using social media in moderation, I have come to appreciate the value of spending time alone in silence.
Life is hectic. As teenagers, we are especially stretched thin as we struggle to meet the expectations of prestigious colleges, succeed in advanced placement classes, complete mountains of homework, participate in too many extracurricular activities, and find time to be with friends and family. Meanwhile, we struggle to figure out who we are.
In the midst of our busy lives, we have trained ourselves to pick up our phones in every spare moment. If we’re waiting for someone to meet up with us, we use our phones as a crutch to avoid seeming awkward. If we don’t know anyone in our math class, we bring out our phones to seem like we’re not alone. By spending these moments scrolling through our feeds, we eliminate valuable opportunities to be still.
We attempt to avoid silence at all costs; yet without it, we don’t have the space to get to know ourselves. If we really made an effort to embrace the silence, we would change our lives. We could interact more fruitfully with other people by first understanding ourselves. We could learn to better manage our emotions. We could reflect and improve our mental health by focusing on gratitude.
Silence is a lost art. Let’s rediscover how to sit in silence.
Social media is everywhere. Let’s find ways to use it in moderation.
Author Bio: Alexa Mendes is a 16-year-old high school junior. She has been named Student of the Year by both her elementary and middle schools, and she continues to strive for excellence today. Alexa earned her Girl Scout Gold Award as a sophomore and made her school’s championship-winning Varsity girls basketball team as both a freshman and a sophomore. Alexa’s book, #Unsubscribed: How I am thriving in high school without social media (and you can, too) is available on Amazon. For more information about her book and Gold Award, check out her website, www.unsubscribedbook.weebly.com. You can also contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a beautiful day!