Are we obsessed with ourselves?
Music concert audiences have shifted from being bouncing fists to rows of raised smartphones. Twenty-first century teenagers are always sharing and communicating, always using social media to update ourselves. However the technology may be getting to our heads, and we're too busy tweeting to realize it.
Social media raises the looming question of privacy. According to a Harvard University survey last March, 95 percent of all American teenagers have a computer or access to one at home. With such easy Internet availability, teens are dominating the online world. We're posting more, sharing more and updating more.
The privilege of more likes and favorites triumphs over the privacy we've been taught to want. Teens are accepting unknown friend requests for larger friend lists, making their profiles public for more publicity and posting revealing photos for more likes.
We seem to be dancing on the fine line between healthy attention and the need for constant assurance.
The Internet opens a new portal for teenagers. We can create profiles of an idealistic portrait of ourselves, delete our flaws, and, unlike face-to-face conversations, think longer before we reply to friends.
With just a swipe of our fingers we're able to tell the world how we're feeling and what we're doing. This constant availability is a double-edged sword: It prompts us to document every minute change in our lives, but it also gives us valuable insight into other people's.
Experiences such as concerts, vacations and parties aren't really fun until other people have seen that we're enjoying ourselves. Thoughts that should be precious and memorable are fogged by the desire for other people to know we lead exciting lives. Phrases like "do it for the Vine" and "gotta gram it," which refer to social media sites Vine and Instagram respectively, are commonly invoked by teenagers who want to impress their online followers.
We share, and tend to overshare, to show that we have the same amount of fun as the people on our news feeds and timelines do -- or more.
Students find themselves checking their phones during school, homework or while watching television.
If students at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School are caught with "on" position cell phones, they are "subject to having the phone confiscated and receiving a disciplinary consequence." However, in the case of Allderdice and other schools in the Pittsburgh School District, many teachers don't enforce the code of conduct to the letter and allow minimal usage. Checking social media during class time is a serious distraction, and students who have this kind of access often find themselves unable to focus in class.
Jeremy Olbum, an Allderdice junior, explains it well. "If the teacher is explaining something on the board and my iPhone is right next to me, I'd rather check Twitter than learn physics concepts!"
This type of distraction can lead to procrastination, poor work ethic and overall unhappiness. I've observed that these constant phone checks, each one consisting of very little new information, leads teenagers to thinking their lives are boring.
Social media is appealing because it's so EASY to be cool on the Internet. Ordinary American teenagers such as Savannah Montano, Anthony Spears and Lavish P. have become Internet sensations without being celebrities.
Ms. Montano and her boyfriend Jared Yarnall have acquired a huge following on Tumblr and Instagram for posting cute pictures of themselves.
Mr. Spears is a high school student in the U.S. who tweets funny, relatable quotes.
Lavish P. is an incredibly affluent teen who flaunts his riches and wealth through pictures of his house, car and clothes.
Hashtags, formally known as number signs, can propel us into the public world online. By using a hashtag on a tweet, status or photo, we enable anyone who looks up that hashtag to be directed to our profile, expanding our friend bases.
Twitter, the website, directly sells followers, where packages ranging from 1,000-10,000 followers can be purchased for $14-$65 to make profiles appear more popular.
Instagram followers are a bit more pricy, with follow numbers ranging from 1,000-20,000 available for $90-$1,800. Teenagers are paying money for Internet popularity, forgetting that these mass friends don't translate into the real world.
So are we obsessed with ourselves? Probably. It may be time that we put down our phones and pick up a good book instead.
Deborah Monti, 16, is a junior at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School. This essay was written during the fall's Allegheny Intermediate Unit gifted and talented journalistic writing and reporting apprenticeship taught by professor Helen Fallon at Point Park University.