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With a couple gentle taps on a small bright screen, the entire world can know. Whether users are celebrating a new car, going out to dinner with friends, or just posting because they feel like it, uploading, tagging and hashtagging everyday actions has become the norm. Through the use of mobile devices, sharing thoughts and photos has never been easier, but can too much online interaction be dangerous? Now, over 70 percent of the United States population has a social networking profile. These online platforms, however, are undoubtedly dominated by teenagers, with 81 percent using some form of social media regularly. Is this use unhealthy, or can social media ultimately be beneficial?

#Evolution

The first cellular phone, created in 1973 by Motorola employee Martin Cooper, began the steady transition made by U.S. citizens to mobile devices. As the Millennials–the generation of children born from the year 1982 through 2004–grew older, a strong presence of technology grew with them. This was often portrayed through gradual, subtle adaptations such as the shift from a family house phone with a cord to wireless cell phones. So, at what age did kids from this generation start wanting mobile electronics of their own?

“I asked for my first iTouch in sixth grade,” sophomore Clay Wescott said. “At that time, I wanted to use it for games and music because we didn’t use social media back then.”

Like Wescott, most children wanted smart devices for similar reasons, or, additionally, to contact family members or friends in the case of an emergency. Now, however, younger and younger children will desire and often times receive such devices earlier on in life.
 “I got my first electronic when I was in kindergarten,” Spencer Crilley, a third grader at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary (OPE), said. “It was an iPad.”

Crilley is a member of Generation Z, which consists of individuals born approximately from the year 2000 through 2025. He’s also one of the many elementary school students who now use technology as their main resource for textbooks, educational videos and digital worksheets at school.

As the push for technology increases, so does the drive for resources such as links for online textbooks like Overdrive, a website for digitally borrowing books from each school district. Older students, however, look at this as a disadvantage.

“I really like to look at the textbooks because I feel like our generation is always stuck in front of a screen,” sophomore Jill Carter said. “It’s nice to get a break because it allows you to be able to physically turn pages, touch and annotate if you have to.”  

Often, physical books can be pricey, outdated and difficult to replace, whereas electronic books are often cheaper and able hold way more materials. Despite this, some believe going digital wouldn’t promote learning the say way.

“Getting rid of textbooks would contradict the whole idea of trying to get people to communicate and be together in the same environment,” Carter said.
In contrast, younger students who’ve experience online learning prefer it to any other form of learning.

“I have never used a textbook before,” Crilley said. “I’m only used to using the online books through the iPad, but I like it a lot.”

Many elementary schools are adopting smart devices like iPads or Tablets into their curriculum. To find out just how long students think they spend using electronics each day, MavLife conducted a poll from OPE teacher Stacey Warburton’s fifth grade class. Out of of 26 students, roughly 36 percent responded that they use some sort of electronic for two to three hours a day.
So, with the increasing exposure of younger children to technology, it’s only a matter of time before textbooks become digital.

Shifting to mobile devices has brought about more questions than what to do with textbooks. Today, eBooks aren’t the only thing kids are scrolling through–social networking has taken over.

#ProfilesWithAPurpose

Beginning in 1997, the first official social media website, Six Degrees, a platform for users to make profiles, friend other people and connect (sound familiar?), the internet had begun to evolve. As more people logged on, the web started to focus more on chat rooms, blogs and instant messaging networks to keep people connected. The 2000’s brought about MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn, finally leading to Twitter in 2006. Before long, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and many others were created, and the social media era was in full force.

From La Costa Canyon, out of the 47 students who participated in a MavLife poll regarding which social media app each person uses more often, 50 percent reported that they use Instagram the most. On this site, users can upload pictures as well as videos to share with followers, but why is it favored by the majority?

“First of all, scrolling is fun,” Kight said. “I like seeing what other people are doing. I like the day after Formal, when everyone is posting their pictures from that night.”

While some users simply like staying in the know, others use social media platforms to showcase their talents. Wescott and Carter both have active online accounts dedicated to photography.

“I want as many people looking at my stuff as possible, so I like to keep [my account] public,” Wescott said. “I’m constantly in touch with people on social media, whether it’s Instagram or Facebook, and it lets me network a lot with different groups of people.”

Instagram especially presents opportunities for the promotion of accounts like these to receive more views.

“If other photographers have a contest I tag myself to get noticed and gain followers,” Carter said.

Students like Wescott and Carter are just two examples of individuals who use digital platforms to self-promote. Although the majority use social media casually, there are still others who choose not to use it at all.

 

#BecomingUnplugged

Despite the 92 percent of teens who go online per day, some believe social networking can be detrimental to one’s daily life. Becoming fed up with their online obsessions has caused students to choose to delete one, a couple or even all of their social media applications. Over the summer of 2015, both Kight and Carter deleted several of their applications.
 “I was really mad, and I felt that [social media] was consuming me,” Kight, who deleted Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, said. “It’s sad that the only entertainment you can have is on your phone. I almost wish I never had one.”

Along with social networking comes the desire of wanting more followers, more likes, more retweets–whatever it may be depending on the app. But how healthy is this?

“I realized I didn’t know half the people who were following me,” Kight said. “I would get 300 likes on a picture, but half those people don’t even know me.”

Out of the five million photos uploaded to Instagram every day (source: Business Insider), how many reflect their users accurately?

“Social media doesn’t define someone,” Carter said. “The presence that we often create online doesn’t represent who we actually are in real life.”

Often times, an individual’s followers can dictate one’s entire account. Users will choose to post or not to post something based on the certain response it will incite.

“My friends will say, ‘I want to post this, but what if so-and-so sees it?’” Kight said. “It’s your account. Post what you want.”

Posting freely, however, should be done with caution. With each new social media account comes an element of danger regarding one’s personal privacy.

“My Instagram is private, but my Twitter is public,” Kight said. “I don’t really care if people see what I say on Twitter, but I don’t want strangers seeing where I am on Instagram. I always forget to take off my geotags, so if someone clicks on where I am, it’ll show up.”

Ultimately, having a private profile may be be both a safer and healthier online habit.

“I made a new Instagram account, and now I have only 200 followers,” Kight said. “It’s just my close friends now and I like it a lot better that way. There’s some people you just don’t want following you, and it’s okay if you don’t let them.”

When individuals use social media excessively, they are likely develop a mindset that revolves around their social networking accounts.

“I’ve been trying to live in the present more, and to not always be worrying about what I want to post,” Kight said. “I think that’s something we should all work on.”

 

#Positivity

Social media may be capable of doing some damage, but it also creates opportunities for individuals to do something positive. The Instagram account @ca.hs.compliments, whose owner prefers to remain anonymous, is a page solely dedicated to complimenting students not only from La Costa Canyon but from San Dieguito Academy, Carlsbad and Torrey Pines High School as well. Other users are invited to send personalized compliments to this account via direct message, which the owner will review and, if it’ll truly uplift someone’s spirit, post on the site.

But why start this account in the first place? Apparently, these schools were missing an important connection.

“It started out as an idea that I should start an account to spread positivity and to keep the schools connected,” the anonymous owner said. “I was observing schools around the district, and I noticed that they weren’t really close. The senior classes last year were out of touch with everyone.”

Surely, the account was designed to bring students together regardless of which grades they’re in. Through compliments, users recognize individuals or a group of individuals for an achievement, or for just being themselves.

“I thought that I should just give it a try and boost someone’s confidence,” the owner said. “I feel great whenever people send me their compliment requests, and then I post them and it makes everyone’s day.”

A couple months ago, this account featured a picture of senior Lindsey Maryon, along with a long, sincere message. Some of the kind words included, “This right here is one of the friendliest and most outgoing people I know through ups and downs. I have never seen a moment where she isn’t there by her friends’ side when they need her.”

“First, I got the notification on my phone, and I thought it was really nice,” said Maryon. “It made me feel really good about myself.”
Maryon is one of many students who’ve been recognized so far. Kind, anonymous messages have the power to generate feelings of gratitude and appreciation that can transcend campus boundaries.

“I think whoever runs the account is a very good person who wants to make everyone feel special,” Maryon said.

Symbolically, the Instagram account’s profile picture depicts a collage of the Mustangs, Mavericks, Lancers, and Falcons all pieced together, united as one.

“I hope a lot of people spread more positivity and love throughout this community,” the owner said. “I just want to remind people that they’re important, that they’re here and we know that they’re here. I think that it will make the world a better place.”

Small acts of kindness like this have the potential to indeed revolutionize the way people interact, especially on social media. This Instagram page may leave a lasting legacy of positivity for years to come, setting an example for online users even outside the school district. Like the @ca.hs.compliments account description suggests, maybe more users should continue to “spread the love.”

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