Social media networks are known to be encumbered with a multitude of ramifications, both positive and negative, especially among Indian teenagers. With India being engulfed by COVID-19, it becomes inherently significant to observe and critically analyze the growing dependency on social media every day.
Social media consumption has increased by 70% in the first five months of the pandemic and the period has seen a 45% increase in the number of postings that are being done by users on various platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (Ahmed, 2019). It is thus, evident, that the dependency has increased manifold in this short span of time. This article aims at reviewing the growing usage of social media networks among teenagers during the pandemic in India and the scope of further deliberations upon the optimal usage of the same.
Most of the social media network users are teenagers
There are a number of frequently used social media networks today and the purpose they serve to the Indian population, particularly teenagers. A staggering result of statistics obtained from myriad sources points to Instagram as the most widely used application during the pandemic in India, which has seen an increase of 80% inactivity. On average, Indian users spent 2.4 hours on social media a day, which is slightly below the global average of 2.5 hours a day. Due to the increasing sale and usage of cell phones today, most social networking platforms have been accessed through them. Today India has 290 million active social media users who spend the majority of their screen time on various social networking websites.
It is interesting to note that the age group that dominates most of these social networking platforms are teenagers. Teens and adolescents in the age group 13-19 years, constitute 31% of total social media users in India (Statista, 2021). Facebook and Instagram are mainly used by the age group 18-24 years in India. This elucidates that these are platforms designed mostly to serve the needs of the teen-adults. Facebook has 97.2 million users in this category of teen adults. There are 69 million users in Instagram from India alone, most of who are millennials and gen-z users (Pragati, 2019).
Factors responsible for the rise in social media usage
Need to stay in touch
A number of factors can be attributed to the rising usage of social media among teens. Primary among them is the need to stay in touch with friends and to make new friends. Face-to-face social interaction has become restricted in recent times due to restrictions in movement during the pandemic.
Easy availability of devices and internet
The second reason for the rising usage of social media is the easy availability of smart devices such as mobile phones and tablets which is increasing the accessibility to the online world. The availability of cheap mobile data in India is further encouraging the growing usage of the internet (Bhati, Bansal and Villa, 2019).
Social media networks offer entertainment and news
Moreover, social media networks are being used more for entertainment and news, rather than the production of knowledge or a platform or creativity. To put it in simple statistics, the most searched queries as per Google were songs, Youtube, Video Downloads among others and the most searched queries on Youtube were also songs, movies, and other forms of entertainment (Pragati, 2019).
Social media networks are the source of happiness
Furthermore, about 43% of Indians believed that spending time on social media brought them some form of happiness, while 29% believed otherwise (Statista, 2020). Another major reason for the growing usage is to maintain the “self-status”, i.e. to constantly update their online network regarding the recent happenings in their life (Narasimhamurthy, 2014).
Social benefit during COVID-19
The major factor that has significantly risen the usage of social media among teens in recent months is a social benefit, i.e., it might be of use to others. At a time when hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and plasma donation were highly in demand, social media was put to good use by the gen-z and millennials mostly to bridge the gap between the needy and the helpers. Lastly, the rise in usage of social media networks is due to the belief that the mainstream news provided was biased. Therefore, the users took it upon themselves to make sure the facts and figures were talked about openly and help could reach where it was really needed (Keelery, 2020).
Impact of excessive social media usage
Detrimental to mental health
While social media does have its perks in dealing with the pandemic in positive ways, it also takes a toll on mental health. Users, particularly teenagers have reported experiencing mental disorders such as low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, narcissism, and fear of missing out (Prabhakararao, 2016).
Negative behavioral changes
Secondly, it is also causing many behavioural changes such as:
- engaging in bullying,
- inability to connect with others due to anti-social behaviour,
- lack of exercise and physical activity and,
- inability to go beyond a small talk.
This is causing a slew of other complications in teenagers’ lives, such as stunted emotional and physical growth, addictive behaviour, aggression, and overall feeling of unhappiness and decreased physical immunity (Deepa and Priya, 2020).
Over-exposure to grim content
Social media also exposes young teenagers to grim and depressing content. A generation that has never encountered deaths on such a humongous number has increasingly resorted to online therapy and venting their minds to strangers or friends over social media. This pattern has seen an overwhelming rise with teen adults sharing pages of online therapy and professional help of any means on their accounts, particularly visible on Instagram.
Evidently, the cons of social media were prevalent from its rise between 2012-2018 among teen adults which included teen depression, suicide rates, and mental health issues such as chronic social anxiety, unhealthy eating and sleeping habits, among others (Newport Academy, 2019).
Trends in social media networks among teens are changing
However, the cons have now altered to include the feelings of helplessness and despair as the world fights against COVID-19. The mindset of teen adults so far was driven towards helping the community in whatever way possible, through medical, emotional and verbal ways. However, with the lack of hospital beds, plasma donations and medical facilities in large numbers, millennials and the Gen-Z find themselves in a fix as to how to keep up with the positive approach of helping.
To look for inward solutions has been the standard approach of teenagers and young adults. Accordingly, they have also found out smaller means to keep their mental health in check. Reducing screen time, deactivating their social media accounts for a while, or seeking professional therapy are some of the ways to restrict the impact of excessive social media usage. The awareness of the overuse of social media among teenagers is growing. They are now starting to adopt a means of relief through keeping in touch with reality as well and keep a watch over their activities.
- Ahmed, E. (2019, April 28). Use of Social Media by Teens: Pros and Cons. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from Social Media Magazine: https://www.socialmediamagazine.org/use-of-social-media-by-teens-pros-cons/
- Bhati, V. S., Bansal, J. and Villa, S. (2019) ‘Social Media and Indian Youth’, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF COMPUTER SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING, 7(1), pp. 818–821.
- Deepa, M. and Priya, K. (2020) ‘IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON MENTAL HEALTH OF STUDENTS’, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC & TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH, 9(3), pp. 3796–3800.
- Keelery, S. (2020, October 16). Factors that motivate Indians to share information on social media 2018. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/996489/india-motivational-factors-to-share-information-on-social-media/
- Keelery, S. (2020, July 7). Social Media usage in India- statistics and facts. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from Statista: https://www.statista.com/topics/5113/social-media-usage-in-india/#dossierSummary
- Narasimhamurthy, N. (2014) ‘Cultural Impact and Gender on Indian Young Adults in Using Social Networking Sites’, International Journal of Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies, 1(7), pp. 113–125.
- Newport Academy. (2019, March 8). The Effect of Social Media on Teenagers. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from Newport Academy: https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/well-being/effect-of-social-media-on-teenagers/
- Prabhakararao, S. (2016) ‘Overuse of Social Media Affects the Mental Health of Adolescents and Early Youth’, The International Journal of Indian Psychology, 3(2), pp. 14–19.
- Pragati. (2019, October 07). Social Media Statistics in India. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from Talkwalker: https://www.talkwalker.com/blog/social-media-statistics-in-india
- Statista. (2020, October 16). Time spent on social media as source of happiness. Retrieved May 12, 2021, from Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1066519/india-time-spent-on-social-media-as-source-of-happiness/
- Statista (2021) Penetration of leading social networks in India as of January 2021.