Most teenagers spend up to 8 hours on social media every day, and none of them truly realize the effect it has on them until it’s too late. Many of my friends and family members know me as someone who actively uses social media, and has for most of my youth. From the time I was eight years old, I saw all of my older cousins using social media and grew very jealous. I begged my parents to let me download social media, and they eventually agreed not fully understanding the effect it would have on me. I would consistently post content on different platforms growing up and accumulated hundreds of videos on my pages. Some of the platforms I would use every day were YouTube, Musically, Snapchat and Instagram. I had loads of fun making funny videos and for the most part, I continued to stay the same happy, outgoing kid. However, as I grew up people’s intentions on social media started to change, and the whole vibe of these platforms changed (and not for the better). Social media has had a major negative impact on my mental health and the way I feel about myself.

When I entered middle school I noticed social media started to be less fun, and the internet had gained many trolls and haters. Social media was less about creating amusing videos, and more about looking pretty and gaining followers. In the 8th grade, I learned the concept of comparison, and I started to deeply care about what other people thought of me. I would see tons of pretty girls on my “for you page” and think to myself “I wish I looked more like them”. This affected my happiness and the way I thought about myself. At first, it started with small insecurities but quickly turned into body dysmorphia. When I entered grade 9, I was in a very bad place. I wasn’t fully comfortable at my school, I had lost a lot of my friends from my elementary school, and I struggled with the way I looked. I felt very lonely and was not very happy. Even feeling this way I never was able to give up social media. It was hard and felt wrong because everyone else used it, and I spent so much of my free time scrolling endlessly. Looking back I realize social media was escalating everything and was probably the worst thing I could have been doing with my free time. However, into my second semester of grade nine, I made a good group of friends, my happiness went up, and I started to care less about the way I looked. Little did I know everything was about to change drastically.

On April 24th, 2022 I decided to post a six-second TikTok video of myself. Six seconds and the press of a button had the power to change everything. At the time I was feeling confident in the way I looked, and I didn’t post the video to gain validation from anyone else, but rather because I simply felt pretty. Over the next week, the video became “viral” and I gained hundreds of thousands of views. The video now has 236,000 likes, over 4000 comments, 1.5 million views, and I now have over twenty-seven thousand followers on my account. Apparently, people from all over the world had also agreed that I was pretty and gave me validation for it. I received thousands of positive comments from men and women saying I was, “drop dead gorgeous”, “stunning”, “beautiful”, etc. As with most videos that receive attention like this, there were also hundreds of negative comments. People called me derogatory terms and objectified me so much to the point that I had to ban certain words and terms from my comments in order to make myself feel better. I ended up making the video private for a while so I could stop obsessing over all the comments I was getting, and slow down the number of views. These comments made me feel terrible about myself, but actually what affected me the most was how people suddenly decided I was pretty. It felt like almost overnight people had collectively decided that I was suddenly attractive and worthy of attention. I quickly gained this deep fear that I only looked pretty on social media, and people didn’t think I was pretty in person. I started trying to look good all of the time and spent a lot more time picking out outfits, doing my hair and makeup and generally obsessing over how I looked. I wanted to try and prove that I was pretty in person and make sure I wasn’t a “catfish”. This really impacted the way I felt about myself. I lost focus of all the other things that make me a wonderful person, and I only cared about the way I looked on the outside. I would constantly look at myself in the mirror, and at my phone camera, with concern that I was not looking my best at all times. Growing up for the most part I never thought I was ugly, but suddenly I had all of this attention and I was not sure what to do about it.

I’m still concerned about the way I look and I struggle in many ways, but I like to think things have gotten a bit better. I’m sure social media will change drastically in the years to come and potentially look nothing like it does now. However, when the time comes and I eventually have kids, I will do my best to steer them away from it. I will never blame my parents for what happened because it’s not their fault. They thought that if I had social media it would make me happy, and it did for a while. Social media changes every year and I do understand that there’s a lot of good that can come from it. But I know I’m one of many who has been impacted in a negative way, and I don’t want my own kids to go through the same experience I did.

Emerson King is a Kind Human Club member and daughter of mini mioche Founder, Alyssa Kerbel.

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