One day I was sitting in my room just watching TikTok. And I kind of just had an anxiety attack. Like, I just started coming to this realization that “I’m just sitting in my room watching TikTok.” And I was a little sad about that. I was like, “I could do so much more than just watch TikTok.” Like I was wasting my time.
My name is Regan Neil. I am 18 years old and a senior at Central High School. I live with my mother, Lisa, and my brother, Austin. I like to work out and make people laugh. No matter where I am, I always try to make people happy. I am doing my story on how social media affects teenagers negatively. Growing up, I got to see the birth of social media. On the other hand, I have missed some older methods of communication, like knowing how to send a letter. When my mom and dad were growing up, they will tell me that they didn’t have cell phones and had to use a home phone or payphone if they were out. They made life seem simpler than it is now. Like having fun back then was going out and hanging out with your friends, which kids still do. But now you have kids who just watch TikTok for hours.
When covid hit, everything was different. We did everything online. School was online, but people would be on Zoom calls and some people wouldn’t be paying attention; they would play video games or watch YouTube. And so I wanted to make a story about that realization. I got to my room when I looked. TikTok is like people are so depressed right now. And I have a friend who is going through some things. I have several friends who are going through some things. They don’t talk like that on social media, it has numbed people’s emotions.
I was at a soccer game and there were these girls who found players on the soccer field and looked them up on Instagram to see who they were. And I’m just thinking “it doesn’t matter. Instead of living in the moment and watching the game and talking to friends, you’re glued to your phone and looking at Instagram. You’re not going to be able to have that memory of hanging out with your friends .’ And if I’m on my deathbed and all I remember is watching TikTok and Instagram and Twitter, then that’s a pretty depressing life.
Social media has changed the way children process things and how they act before social media. If you liked a girl and wanted to go on a date with the girl, you go up and ask them. Nowadays, with cell phones, kids have become less confident in actually talking to people so they turn to social media. Like I said before, you have kids these days who are afraid to talk to other people. A good example of this is TikTok. You have these kids make these videos about doing something they enjoy, like playing the drums. Some get comments. “This is lame, lol!”
Now the child will forever be afraid to express his passion for playing drums. The amount of deaths that have occurred due to cyberbullying is ridiculous. Last year, a student at Centerville took his own life. A recent survey conducted by Best Radio.com shows that the average person spends 6 hours and 55 minutes on their phone, which is 43% of someone’s waking hours. Teens who spend more than 3 hours a day on their phones tend to score lower on writing and speaking tests. They are also more susceptible to anxiety, depression, ADHD, increased stress and addiction.
I try to reach out to other students and others my age and tell them that they are not alone. I try to get them out of the deep abyss of being surrounded and isolated in social media. Are you a good friend? Are you a good teammate? Are you a good father? Are you a good son? No one cares how many followers you have. What do you do in your life that makes you a good person? That’s why I want other teenagers to learn from my story.
Offline, written and produced by Ragan Neill, senior at Centerville High School. Special thanks to his teacher, Tricia Rapoch.