App Exodus: Young People Walking Away From Social Media, Calling It 'Toxic and Obsessive'
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Younger Americans are quickly falling out of love with social media.
Zoomers — those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s — are turning their backs on TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram, leaving behind what many now see as “the ultimate waste,” according to the New York Post.
The anti-app exodus comes as Gen Zers are calling the platforms “toxic” and “obsessive.”
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A new survey of 10,000 people commissioned by the investment bank Piper Sandler found just 22% of respondents between the ages of 7 and 22 named Instagram as their favorite app — down from 31% in 2020.
Gabriella Steinerman, 20, told the Post, “When you delete it, you realize you don’t need it.” She said she got rid of TikTok and Instagram in 2019 and felt a nearly immediate sense of relief after doing so.
“When I was posting, I wanted the best photo that I took and the best angle and I had 20 different photos of the same thing,” explained Steinerman. “I was comparing myself to myself; it’s not a fun game. I would say it’s an obsessive behavior and it is toxic, but it’s also sneaky, in that, when you do it, it seems so normal.”
An even broader survey of 84,011 people — ranging in age from 10 to 80 years old — found that “the cross-sectional relationship between self-reported estimates of social media use and life satisfaction ratings is most negative in younger adolescents.” Ultimately, the survey results suggested social media use negatively impacts younger users’ body image, life satisfaction, and self-esteem.
The Verge reported that, regardless of whether they used social media very frequently or sparingly, adolescents in the 16-to-21-year-old range saw lower life satisfaction simply as a result of engaging with the platforms.
This disenchantment with social media is part of an ongoing trend.
In late summer of 2021, leaked internal data from Meta — the parent company behind Instagram and Facebook — revealed the brand is aware of just how harmful the photo-sharing app can be, particularly to teen girls’ self-esteem.
Researchers for Meta reportedly studied teenage users’ mental health for three years. The results showed 32% of teen girls who “felt bad about their bodies” said their problems were worsened by Instagram use. Additionally, the research suggested teenagers feel compelled to use apps like Instagram, even if it causes problems in their lives.
“Teens told us that they don’t like the amount of time they spend on the app but feel like they have to be present,” one Instagram research manager purportedly said. “They often feel ‘addicted,’ and know that what they’re seeing is bad for their mental health but feel unable to stop themselves.”
As if that is not enough, Instagram has also sparked a negative comparison game in users’ lives.
Tallo released a survey in December showing 56% of Zoomers — a nickname for those born in Generation Z — feel “social media has led them to feel left out by their peers.” Furthermore, 75% of young women on social media apps reported feeling prompted “to compare themselves to peers.”
“[Eighty-two percent] of Gen Zers said that social media had proven to be a distraction to them while doing schoolwork,” Tallo reported. “It was also revealed that 3 in 4 female respondents said that social media has caused them to compare themselves to peers, while only 56% of males said the same, and more than half of all respondents (56%) indicated that social media has led them to feel left out by their peers.”
It seems increasingly clear there are many negative side effects to social media use — particularly among younger demographics.
As Christians, it is important to safeguard our view of ourselves and others.
We know fromthat God created human beings “in his own image” (NIV). And the Apostle Paul warned against prioritizing approval from other people before the Lord, writing, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” ( , NIV). Then, in , it’s written, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (NIV).
Our value comes not from the number of “likes” we can muster up on social media or from the quality of photos we post to our feeds. Our worth is found solely in who we are as people created in the image of God and commissioned by Him to share the Gospel with a world desperate for hope.
Maintaining a presence on social media is not worth risking the temptation to compare, judge, and idolize. During His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (, NIV).
If social media is causing a problem in your life, leave it behind. Your life will be richer without it.
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