Social media connects teens — but at what price?

By Kerrianne Ryan, Features/Entertainment Editor

Social media is everywhere, especially at Fairmont, because of its somewhat liberal cell phone policy. In the halls, students have their phones out, tweeting about their last class or posting on Facebook about how eager they are for the weekend. Some even secretly post pictures to Instagram during a boring class.

Regardless of what form of social media students at Fairmont choose, it’s a big portion of their life and how they interact with their peers.

To see how popular social media truly is at Fairmont, The Flyer sampled a small number of students to find out if they use social media and, if so, what they use most.

Of the 41 responses The Flyer received, 36 students said that they actively participate in social media; 27 of those students said they use Facebook more than any other social media site. Twitter came in second, with 14 students who said they use it most; two students said they use Instagram the most.

Social media’s impact on students

Despite the small sampling size, this information gives a glimpse into what social media is used most at Fairmont. But there’s more to social media than just what students use. There is how they use it and how it affects them.

Senior Maggie Penick is one of the many Fairmont students who have a Facebook page. “I check it almost daily,” she said. Despite her personal usage, however, Penick feels that social media may have a not-so-great impact on young people. “It has negatively impacted this generation’s communication skills. A lot of younger people in our generation have a lesser ability to speak face to face, and they have more issues with public, or semi-public, speaking.”

Senior Morgan Goetz also feels social interaction has deteriorated with the growing popularity of social media. “The only problem with our generation is that we can’t look people in the eyes when we talk, because we’re so used to communicating over technology,” said Goetz.

Fairmont sophomore Colleen Pierce says the addiction to social media that many teenagers have causes them to ignore those around them. “We can get so absorbed in whatever is happening on Twitter or Facebook. I also feel like people don’t really want to actually talk to others anymore,” she said. “I find myself saying, ‘Just text me’ or ‘I saw that on Twitter’ all the time, and it cuts my personal conversations short.”

Despite the negative side effects, however, Penick thinks social media has an upside. “It allows us to be better connected with each other, even when we go our separate ways,” she said.

Indeed, one benefit of a lot of students having Facebook and Twitter pages is keeping in contact with old friends or people they haven’t seen in awhile. Goetz said this is why she has a Facebook page. “I never really use it. I only have it to keep connections with people that I won’t be around or see anymore. I’m too busy to ever mess around with it too much,” said Goetz.

However, Goetz says she does see a very positive effect of the readily available social media. “It’s very convenient, and it’s so easy to keep in touch. It really keeps people together,” she said.

Dependency on social media

Some worry, though, that the ease of using social media may increase students’ dependence on it. “Everywhere I go, I see people at least my own age, some older and some younger, on their phones … updating statuses on Facebook and Twitter almost every 10 minutes, and pictures are constantly posted to Instagram,” Pierce said. “I’m not sure why we’re so attached to these sites, but if I had to guess, I would say we just like the extra connection to our friends.”

Goetz agrees with the standpoint that the current generation is too dependent on social media. “I think only half the generation could survive if social media was to be taken from them,” she said. “Not everyone could do it.”