The cake recipes sandwiched in between crash diets and messages to love yourself were disorienting.
I really struggled when I looked in the mirror after joining social media- I’m too fat, or I have ugly features, or my neck is too long, or my hair doesn’t frame my face correctly.
I began to be aware that I was believing things that...didn’t exist.
Facing food instability and homelessness, there were seemingly “small” images, videos, and advertisements in social media that I would see that would remind me over and over that I was different.
I still struggle with the endless scroll
of the Instagram explore page.
Feeling lonely over quarantine has made me more vulnerable.
My morning time ritual became an afternoon ritual to a night ritual, to an all day ritual where I would habitually check my phone every hour, eagerly waiting for the next notification to come in.
I remember one night specifically that was probably when I was at my peak of using that app when I just caught myself using it for a couple of hours without stopping...
I got addicted, always checking my phone, obsessed with keeping my streaks, worrying that someone needed my attention 24/7.
I felt so insecure about myself. My abilities, my looks, my roots, my potential. This because I was comparing my life with people around me and people I saw on social media.
Tik Tok had started recommending weight loss videos and “what I eat in a day” videos to my “For You” page.
I became obsessed with living what social media promotes as a worthwhile and perfect life.
See hundreds more

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Whatever the benefits of social media, they aren’t worth the costs. After watching The Social Dilemma, an estimated 100 million people worldwide are now aware of how social media harms us, and a powerful movement for change is growing.

#MySocialTruth offers a platform for young people like you to bring your voice to this movement. Share your experience, and help reimagine the future.

Stories that push for change

These stories are representative of the biggest challenges young people are facing on social media platforms that profit from our outrage, confusion, addiction, and depression. Read them, and share your own.

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I knew it was time for me to leave that platform when I realized that I was walking on eggshells.

Gracie, 17, Arlington Heights, IL, United States
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Gracie, 17, Arlington Heights, IL, United States
May 21, 2021

I used to be an avid twitter user. I used it to follow various celebrities that I liked. I knew it was time for me to leave that platform when I realized that I was walking on eggshells, scared to say something wrong that would make the other strangers in the communities I was apart of angry. I had watched other users get bullied off the app when they had made a mistake or said something wrong and when I realized I was genuinely scared to say anything for fear of “being cancelled” I knew it was time to leave.

For a long time I was barely living in reality and started living in a fantasy almost.

Tosca, 22, Amsterdam, Netherlands
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Tosca, 22, Amsterdam, Netherlands
May 21, 2021

I got addicted to youtube when I was in high school because I had no friends and got bullied from time to time, at the time I didn't realize it was to cope, but I did know I was lonely and had no friends. Because YouTubers have such a personal relationship with their audience, you feel very close to them and their content, not realizing they aren't telling you everything about their life. I was a fan of Shane Dawson, and he is the poster child for this. He was manipulating his audience and using the algorithm to his advantage during his career. I remember feeling close to him and him always thanking his audience and hyping them up, which made me feel very seen, even though I wasn't. A few years after I got sucked into online activism/SJW corners of the internet on Facebook and Instagram and for a long time I believed I wasn't being biased/subjective when I very clearly was, and I started to have pretty dark thoughts and opinions. Again I felt connected to people, more disconnected from the outside world and this time it got much worse. I also had resentment towards everyone around me, thought they weren't who they said they were. I shut everyone out because I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was "cutting off problematic friends and family" when I was nitpicking about the things they did that were problematic (aka maybe watching a certain tv show with an actor that had done or said something questionable). I thought I wasn't addicted. I rationalized it in all the possible ways. Later when I did realize I was addicted, I said it was for the right reasons and I needed to stay "woke", because I didn't trust any other sources anymore. I wanted to quit the platforms but because I felt it would prevent me from doing online activism I stayed. This feels weird to say, but I felt very ashamed for being white. Not a "healthy dose of white guilt", but full-on, deep-rooted shame about who I was as a person because I was white. For a long time I was barely living in reality and started living in a fantasy almost, and deep down was aware of it and ashamed so it took a long time for me to own up to it. I spent a lot of time rationalizing why it wasn't as bad as I thought, or admitting to myself that I was addicted but not doing anything to change it. I was using alllll the platforms too, all of them except Twitter, Reddit and Tumblr. I eventually got a very close friend that's now my best friend basically through our mutual addiction. I think we enabled each other at times, but it was so good to finally have someone to relate to. I still sometimes fall back into my addiction, but I have real friends now and a life. There are a lot of liars on the internet. And why wouldn't there be, it's so easy to lie on there. There were times when I thought someone was so honest and so genuine, and so themselves that there was no way they could be bullshitting. But once I finally started independently researching, aka researching someone's background with a neutral mind and considering the option that they might not be who they say they are, I found out those exact people were lying and just how gullible I was being. It sucks getting lied to. The biggest liar is the platform itself. It's very hard to do good on there and simultaneously managing your addiction. If you can, it's better to do good in real life, with people you can meet face to face or at least text. So many things in my life got sabotaged because I couldn't quit, mostly my grades. I had trouble paying attention to things in my surroundings, I stayed up till late at night (in my teen years, I watched youtube every night until about 3 am a lot of times), I got massive anxiety and social anxiety that I'm still dealing with, I used my phone as a crutch to avoid interacting with people, everything that had to do with real life stopped being appealing to me, it just wasn't as exciting. But you don't need any reason to quit, you don't have to stay for any creator. For me I waited deleting because I didn't wanna say goodbye to all the people I followed who I felt personally connected to, but eventually I decided to just do it, and it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders and kind of setting myself free. Everyone deserves that.

Only a discovery that my favourite YouTuber may be a white supremacist shocked me back to my senses.

Anonymous, 21, I, Pakistan
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Anonymous, 21, I, Pakistan
May 21, 2021

During lockdown, I had too much time to spend on YouTube. Several rabbit holes later, my views on Feminism, and politics morphed into ones where my respect for certain members of society was much lower than before. Only a discovery that my favourite YouTuber may be a white supremacist shocked me back to my senses. Even though I avoid preachy YouTubers now, I still YouTube is a source of toxicity in my life.

All that did was tear me down and make me compare myself with others.

Kobe, 20, Malolos City, Philippines
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Kobe, 20, Malolos City, Philippines
May 21, 2021

Posting IG stories made me care a lot more about my online image, i legit wanted to prove to my followers that i had a life too but all that did was tear me down and make me compare myself with others even more. I'm 5 months clean from social media and not once do i regret deleting my soc meds. Best decision I've ever made.

I still am addicted, but now i have decided that I am more powerful than the platforms are.

Jimena, 19, Madrid, Spain
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Jimena, 19, Madrid, Spain
May 21, 2021

When I was around 16-17 I was fully addicted to social media. I would spend hours on end scrolling through instagram, tiktok, snapchat or any platform that would give me any type of dopamine rush. At that time, being 16 I would see so many perfect girls, with perfect bodies and flat stomachs and that made me feel insecure, and I did not have any one to talk to because I thought I was the only person that was going through this. Though I hated being on social media it was like I could not stop scrolling through it. When I was having lunch or dinner I was on my phone, when I was hanging out with friends I was on my phone, and I could feel my relationships slipping away from me. I vividly remember one day when I was having lunch with one friend, we ordered and immediately when our food came we both started taking photos of it and posting them on instagram or snapchat. A second after that I thought to myself "we look so stupid , instead of talking and being together we are just on our phones", so after that I decided that I would not have lunch with my phone on the table when I was with friends and I would tell them to not be using them, because I felt like I was not having any meaningful talks or time with my friends. I am 19 now, I still am addicted, but now i have decided that I am more powerful than the platforms are. I decided to delete most of my social media, realizing that it would not bring any good to my life and it would just take time that I could be using to study or go outside to nature.

I felt constantly watched and wasn't free to be myself.

Alicia, 15, Valencia, Spain
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Alicia, 15, Valencia, Spain
May 21, 2021

When I started high school at age 12, I was completely overwhelmed.It was a time when I was starting to open up my social circle and meet new people, that's why image was so important. Everyone I met was posting their "amazing" lives on Instagram and I started comparing myself to everyone in everything. I felt guilty for not liking what I was supposed to like and not having their lives. I felt constantly watched and wasn't free to be myself. I just had to fit in and find my place in "the social ranking". I wasn’t living my own life and I felt trapped in my own image. That affected me in and out (real social life) of my social media accounts. This led to loneliness, a lot of social anxiety, body insecurities and some depressive periods.After almost 4 years, I've grown up but I'm still learning to deal with it and struggling to be myself.

Me and my peers in 7th grade have been addicted to technology for a while.

Anonymous, 13, denver, USA
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Anonymous, 13, denver, USA
May 21, 2021

Me and my peers in 7th grade have been addicted to technology for a while and we weren't aware of our situation until our class study of technology's risks. And it wasn't until now that we realized how exposed to addiction we are. We all think this is a real issue that we need to be aware of. Most of the issues that we have had in our class have been about technology and most of our conversations have been about technology. Then we saw "The Social Dilemma" and most of our conversations about technology have stopped. Some of our classmates have not recognized their dependence on technology and social media and it has an affect on our whole class culture. Our hopes for our future are to try to get away from technology and to stop our addictions on technology.-Kenneth, Josan, Mario, Ashley (7th graders , St. Rose Of Lima Catholic Academy , Denver, Colorado )

My generation is barely existing in a war against our own mental health

Caitlyn, 19, Centennial, United States
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Caitlyn, 19, Centennial, United States
May 21, 2021

When I was a freshman, four students at my high school died by suicide. Numb and confused, my 15-year-old brain could not begin to grasp the depth of the tragedies. As a result, I became more sensitive to the young people around me who were also struggling. I lost sleep over my friend, Katie, whose battle with mental health heartlessly robbed her of the contagious laugh I loved so much. I cried with my little sister when she was viciously attacked by an online group full of hate. I watched anxiety envelop my cousin until she could no longer eat. And I certainly was not exempt; friendless and alone, I often felt invisible. It became clear that my generation is barely existing in a war against our own mental health. I really appreciate everything CHT is doing to promote positive uses of technology, especially since social media is often a cause for mental health issues and teen suicide, yet it is usually the first place young people seek when they are hurting. CHT and Girl Scouts inspired me to create a positive virtual community where young people can anonymously post their personal stories, struggles, and heartfelt questions without the fear of judgement or rejection. It is a safe and positive place that welcomes all. Please share asafeplace2share.org with anyone who might benefit from our uplifting community. Together, we will fight relentlessly to ensure that no one in our community becomes a casualty of this merciless war.

I turned to self harm to cope with my internal distress and ended up joining a pro-anorexia group-chat

Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
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Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
May 21, 2021

When I was in 7th grade I started having really terrible mental health problems. I turned to self harm to cope with my internal distress and ended up joining a pro-anorexia group-chat, becoming a member of a forum on a separate website. In the kik group-chat situations I even came into contact with a predator posing as a young girl in my age group. I used Instagram to find people who felt the same as me about their body image and posted very damaging and dangerous things. This went on for years and I truly believe that if it weren't for the social media platforms and groups that I found so young (11 years old!) I would not still be fighting to finally recover years after when I am a college student with real world responsibilities. It was damaging physically and mentally and will haunt me for years to come.

[He] had messages and screenshots to use against me and in my small hometown my image was ruined and I was left with him as one of the only people who would talk to me (when he felt like it)

Anonymous, 18, New Haven, USA
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Anonymous, 18, New Haven, USA
May 21, 2021

In my early-mid teens about 12/13 years old to 16 years old I struggled with self image and social problems. When I was around 12 an older boy began working his way into my life using my mental illness as a means to manipulate me. Because at the time he was in high school and I was in middle school, we mainly communicated through Facebook messenger since we didn't see each other in school. He had begun to manipulate me to do things with him sexually that didn't feel right in the back of my mind but he said it was normal and I didn't have many friends and virtually none that weren't associated with him (my 14 year old 8th grade friend was dating his 18 year old graduating high school friend-it was normal in the friend group) so he was able to convince me that he was a supportive, caring person in my life and that's why I should do the things he wanted me to. It's messed up but man I was like 12 years old and very vulnerable, I didn't know any better. At one point I told someone about the things that were going on and when he caught wind he was mad and had messages and screenshots to use against me and in my small hometown my image was ruined and I was left with him as one of the only people who would talk to me (when he felt like it). I never understood the extent of the things he said about me until I was about 16-17. Things like this happened more in early high school because it was all I knew as 'normalcy.' I had terrible things said to me and at one point the ex-girlfriend of a guy I had broken up with told me to commit suicide in very twisted and horrible words over dm's on instagram, I was doing terribly anyways so I tried and I almost died at 14. Young people are being taken advantage of. Literal children are being taken advantage of and if mental illness is already a component it's all even worse. My parents had no idea and I made sure it stayed that way. I can't blame them too much, I was sneaky and I knew that because of their age and professions they didn't even know how to download a word doc and neither had facebook so they wouldn't have the knowledge to find the things I was involved in and were actively destroying me. The advice I can give to parents now is, be up to date in current social media trends and how the apps function because it is much easier to intervene if you have knowledge about what kids generally are doing- and never assume that 'they are too young to be into that stuff' because this newer generation of children and young teens know nothing besides a world in which they are surrounded by social media. It is dangerous. Oh, and snapchat. Not for kids, definitely not for kids. Absolutely terrible.

I am so glad I never downloaded tiktok.

Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
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Anonymous, 18, Westbrook, USA
May 21, 2021

I am so glad I never downloaded tiktok. I see how many people my age are addicted to it and even more worrisome, kids way younger, kids I work with in my childcare job. I didn't download it because I knew I would become addicted to it and I have been tempted many many times but I have kept that promise I made to myself and I'm so happy that I did seeing how people are now.

I learned that life was beautiful without a phone screen in my face all the time.

Haley, 17, Englewood,
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Haley, 17, Englewood,
May 21, 2021

Freshman year I got grounded and had my phone taken away for a majority of the year. When i finally got it back i forgot how to even turn it on and vaguely remembered my password. In the beginning it was hard because it thought that I was gonna die without my phone and social media. In the middle i would ask my mom if i could have it back like every few weeks and then in the end i didn't even notice it was gone. I feel like losing the privilege I've had a majority of my life was daunting in its own way. I feel like it was a great learning experience and that I could take in my surroundings better. I learned that life was beautiful without a phone screen in my face all the time. Now as a junior in high school I have my cellular turned off so I can enjoy the car rides I take with my family and so I can take in my surroundings.

It brings us so much comfort that we don't want to understand it's harms. I can't name last time I was trully alone. As soon as I feel uncomfortable, anxtious, etc. my phone is my escape. Is that normal? absolutely not. Do I understand that? 100%. But at the same time , am I still addicted? Unfortunately.

Nutsiko, 19, Tbilisi, Georgia
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Nutsiko, 19, Tbilisi, Georgia
May 21, 2021

I've always been taught that phone is bad, distractive, addictive etc. etc. My perspective has always been that: people who haven't been born in the era we are , will never fully understand where we come from, why are we so dependent on it and why can't we find will to give up. "well you were addicted to different activities , like reading . You can't stop the world from evolving." -this has been my argument for several year, but in the back of my mind I always knew that something was very wrong with what was going on. I had phases where I would decide to give up social media fully. It would last 2-3 weeks, then something would happen and I immediately ran to it. This past year has been tough for me in terms of corona. Being left alone with so much time to yourself, you really start seing things you've been avoiding for very long time. I'm starting to see how dependent I am, not only on social media but on my phone in general. I put it in different room while studying to eliminate distractions but all I can think of in that period of time is when am I going to be able to have my phone back. It brings us so much comfort that we don't want to understand it's harms. I can't name last time I was trully alone. As soon as I feel uncomfortable, anxtious, etc. my phone is my escape. Is that normal? absolutely not. Do I understand that? 100%. But at the same time , am I still addicted? unfortunatly. Few months ago I came across your center and I finally felt that I wasn't alone. There were actually people who not only realized the problem but started a movement. Since then I've been taking small steps towards improvement. I can proudly say, I deleted my instagram and tiktok accounts. Sadly I can't really delete my facebook or gmail because I need it for my univercity but I'm willing to participate to make even the smallest change. Thank you for bringing attention to topic that must bring freat fear to everyone!

The first thing I do in the morning is reach for my phone, I’m always on it during school, it's the first thing I look at when I get home. It’s even caused some people to be pretty rude,

Kara, 17, Dayton, United States
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Kara, 17, Dayton, United States
May 21, 2021

When I turned 12 i got my first phone, with that came social media, Instagram, Snapchat, and at that time Musical.ly. I loved being a part of the group that had a phone and even better social media but now 5 years later I feel myself having a problem, the first thing I do in the morning is reach for my phone, I’m always on it during school, it's the first thing I look at when I get home. It’s even caused some people to be pretty rude, my freshman year (I’m a junior now) I was very confused with my sexuality so I did some wandering around, seeing what I liked and didn’t like, girls at my school did enjoy that very much. I had a secret girlfriend who ended up telling her friends about it and they really didn’t like that, they called me “d*ke”, “f*g”, ''lesbo ``,''freak `` things like that and I spiraled, I thought there was something wrong with me, i thought I was messed up and it let me into a deep and dark depression but, I got up, and got over it. I’m now comfortable with my sexuality and myself. I’m working on myself and that's the most important thing.

I started to back away from social media and just live my life and I feel free. I don’t have to worry about other people’s validation in my life and I can just be who I want to be and live my life the way I want to live my life.

Daniel, 18, Englewood, United States
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Daniel, 18, Englewood, United States
May 21, 2021

Social media has always been in my life from snapping people to just posting funny pictures on Instagram. I don’t think I remember a time in my teen life that I haven’t had a phone with social media on it. As I get older I realize that there are way better things in life than just obsessing over it. As I look back in life I can see how many fun things I missed out on because of social media and trying to post all the fun things I didn’t instead of just living in the moment. After I thought of this I started to back away from social media and just live my life and I feel free. I don’t have to worry about other people’s validation in my life and I can just be who I want to be and live my life the way I want to live my life.

There were so much drama, so much depression coming from that. It's like this was a trap built for me to become even more sad than before.

Anonymous, 17, Union City, United States of America
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Anonymous, 17, Union City, United States of America
May 21, 2021

Social Media, in my personaal opinion was just to gain attention from others when I was younger because I was the unpoular kid once. But as the years progressed, there were so much drama, so much depression coming from that. It's like this was a trap built for me to become even more sad than before.

If you've never experienced addiction, a small warning, it sucks. I mean that literally: it sucks you in and prevents you from being happy, reaching your dreams, or living life.

Mahika, 15, Frisco, United States
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Mahika, 15, Frisco, United States
May 21, 2021

Earlier this year when the Social Dilemma came out, I - just like everyone else - flocked over to Netflix to watch it. I'd heard about it from school and after watching it I felt INSPIRED. This motivation to break away from technology coursed through me. I took all the measures: detoxed my phone, even deleted apps, limited phone use. I joined seminars and tried to become a part of this amazing community, this movement. Obviously, this doesn't sound like your normal "technology ruined me" story, but just wait.......So everything was going well, I was reaching my goal of having a good relationship with technology. And then it all stopped. There was no more adrenaline, and slowly those apps I had deleted reappeared on my phone. Not only did I go back to my former self, but I also got worse. WAY WORSE. I got addicted. The worst part is that I knew what I was doing was wrong, I knew the dangers of the endless scroll, but I still got sucked in. It caused me to push aside my studies, my education, my GOALS. I know what it's like to be a caged bird because I was social media held me captive. These small apps on my phone made me fall into depression, and I felt the only way to not feel sad was to use those very apps. If you've never experienced addiction, a small warning, it sucks. I mean that literally: it sucks you in and prevents you from being happy, reaching your dreams, or living life. You must be wondering how I'm so self-aware of all this now. Well bad things to end, and by the extreme measures of my parents, I lost my phone. Which was the root of all my issues. When my phone went I needed to accept that it was over, and that's when I saw the damage I had caused in my own life. I had nothing else to do so I fixed it. I'm still fixing it. It's not easy, I'll say that, but I've truly experienced life after coming out from this dark place. You don't realize how beautiful the world is if you stare at your phone all day. I realized how much I hadn't noticed about the people around me and myself. Now a little advice for everyone who's suffering as well. Sure the phone gives you happiness but you can use it whenever you want. Even if it's for an hour, go outside and breathe the fresh air. Go for a walk or play with your dog. I promise you will feel happier and lighter. We aren't here for long - life is short - so don't waste it on a device that will outlive you.

One of the biggest issues ive ever dealt with social media was feeling like people forgot about me.

Anonymous , 18, Union, USA
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Anonymous , 18, Union, USA
May 21, 2021

One of the biggest issues ive ever dealt with social media was feeling like people forgot about me. For 6 years ive had social media on my phone and at first it was to keep in touch with friends and to see all the fun that my friends were having, but as time went on i would check the apps and see that they were all hanging out and that i was never invited to these and inside that hurt me horribly and put me in a bad place for months at a time because all I told myself was that I just might not be a good enough friend and thats why I was never invited to these events and hangouts. During this period I just sat inside and did nothing for days and weeks at a time and would just scroll through these apps and see everyone having fun and as time went on it got worse and worse until finally I just got rid of the apps all in all and went outside and later found a great new group of friends that i've had all throughout highschool and it's been some of the best years of my life, so I guess you can say there's always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow you just gotta start from the bottom and work over that big bridge.

I would go through periods where I would have kept the app off my phone for weeks, only to decide to download it late one night, and not be able to delete it for another month. The app made me feel so horrible, but somehow I could not stop.
Adelina, 14, Scottsdale, United States
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Adelina, 14, Scottsdale, United States
March 1, 2021
The first distinct moment dealing with social media that I can remember vividly was when I was in 7th grade. I was scrolling on my instagram feed while laying in my bed late at night, maybe around 9 or 10, when a picture pops up on my feed. It was of my best friend hanging out with the group of girls in the school I hated, but secretly was jealous of and desperately wanted to be a part of. In that instant, I broke down crying, not knowing what to do with myself. This began an awful downward spiral of insecurity and depression. If I am being honest, I remember little from that time in my life except the fact that I was broken, and I knew that social media was behind it. I made the decision to delete Instagram off my phone, and the things I felt began to alleviate, and I started to be myself again. Well, except sometimes, when I couldn't help myself but to re-download it. All of the feelings I had worked so hard to get rid of instantly began rushing back. It's an addiction, that eventually I learned to manage. All was well for a while, until I downloaded TikTok. The endless scrolling, time wasting, mind controlling app. I do not even want to think about how much of my life I have wasted because of TikTok. To make it worse, it made me feel depressed, anxious, and awful. I can't explain why it made me feel this way, and why I continued to use it despite this, but I did. I finally came to my senses at some point, and deleted it. That lasted maybe 3 hours until I downloaded it again. Out of all apps, TikTok is the most addicting by far. I instantly started experiencing withdrawals. I would go through periods where I would have kept the app off my phone for weeks, only to decide to download it late one night, and not be able to delete it for another month. The app made me feel so horrible, but somehow I could not stop. It took months to finally get me off of it for good. As of today, I have a instagram and snapchat account, but don't keep either on my phone. I download them maybe once every two weeks just to check things, and delete it right after. This system gives me the best ability to keep the benefits of social media and eliminate the harms of it. I am so worried for my peers, and for the generations after me. It makes me shudder to imagine the horrific things my friends might be going through trying to deal with social media, and how the use of technology may impact the future of our children, and our world as we know it. This must stop.

I became obsessed with living what social media promotes as a worthwhile and perfect life.

Anuja, 20, Fresno, United States
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Anuja, 20, Fresno, United States
February 24, 2021

I joined social media relatively late (18) when I began college a couple years ago. In college I joined a dance team that used instagram as a tool for marketing workshops and audition informaiton. I started posting because my friend wanted to be a photographer and used me as a model. Once I started posting, that was it, I was completely addicted. I constantly refreshed my likes as they came in, spent hours reading and replying to comments and taking in other people's posts. I became obsessed with living what social media promotes as a worthwhile and perfect life. My anxiety this time last year was at an all time high. Anything any would say to be would feel like a punch to my self-esteem. I was breaking down everyday. My family was getting worried about me. I started to go to therapy and after watching "the social dilemma" quit all social medias. The only thing that is left that is still addicting that I cannot remove is Youtube. Sometimes I feel lonely now that I am not distracting myself with other people's lives esp during quaratine, but I finally have gained some kind of internal peace. I feel more liberated. I have taken up reading and dancing. Social media is harmful, addictive and removes the true sense of self from life. I want to be part of the movement that shows that there IS another way to use technology in a healthy way. Sending love to whoever is reading this!

I really struggled when I looked in the mirror after joining social media- I’m too fat, or I have ugly features, or my neck is too long, or my hair doesn’t frame my face correctly.

Morgan, 14, St Louis, United States
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Morgan, 14, St Louis, United States
February 24, 2021

I was around eleven or twelve when I first started really delving into social media as a whole. I was a young girl still- merely an insecure and immature child who was struggling with sexuality and unsure of where I fit in or belonged, so when I learned that I could roam the internet and make friends I was all ears. I downloaded Tik Tok (everyone was doing it, why not me too?) and I had Tumblr. I always avoided other social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat because I had heard all of the stories that people had shared about things that happened to them and their mental health- and I figured it wouldn’t happen to me if I just steered clear of particular sites so I allowed myself to dive deep into exploring the internet. I REGRET IT!!!My self confidence PLUNGED. When I was younger, I used to love myself so much, love my body and my personality and I never obsessed over the little things because everyone makes mistakes sometimes. I really struggled when I looked in the mirror after joining social media- I’m too fat, or I have ugly features, or my neck is too long, or my hair doesn’t frame my face correctly. I overthought every word that I spoke, for fear of being unliked by someone. It was always something, and it still comes back every once and a while. I also have seriously struggled with depression and anxiety that I never had before social media, and I overlooked it until I started to have suicidal thoughts and considered starving myself to loose weight. I hated myself, and I hated my life. I constantly saw people who hated other people over the littlest of things. I saw anon hate, as well as blind hatred out in the open with a name attached. I experienced hate myself. I saw posts of people who would tag “gay pride” or something only to talk horribly about it for the sole purpose of people in the LGBTQ+ Community to see it; and the same thing under other tags as well. So I, young and new to the internet, was faced with a harsh reality that people are not entirely kind, and there are hateful people who hate you even though they only know one thing or sometimes nothing about you. I was confused, and I was hurt.I deleted all of my social media accounts during the Coronavirus pandemic. It was bringing me so much more anxiety than I would normally have and it was weighing me down so much. After I deleted it, I started to feel so much better. The social media impact on mental health is insane- and it’s REAL. I never realized how bad it was until I deleted everything; my confidence is beginning to rise again, and my depression is getting better, and I have started loving myself again. I can walk around feeling good and confident in myself. Social media is meant to be a wonderful place, that’s what it was designed for. But people are cruel, and for some the internet’s poses as a mask to say whatever they should wish and never face consequences for it. After deleting social media, I saw the world around me again. The beauty of nature. The smell of old books. The sunrise and sunset. This was the world I was missing when I was on social media; the real, authentic world that I can touch and see and love because the world IS a wonderful place regardless of whether or not I can do a Tik Tok dance or not. Social media is bad- but it can be changed. It takes empathy and common decency that gets lost the more time you spend on the internet to create a world where we can al stand hand in hand no matter what your race, religion, sexuality, or anything else that makes us different. Being different is a beautiful thing- you shouldn’t hate me for liking a different anime character than you, and I shouldn’t hate you for liking a book that I don’t like. It is our differences that makes this world the place that it is; a diverse, beautiful place. With time and effort, social media could become healthier than it is now. But as for right this second? I recommend deleting your social media, or using your social media to raise awareness of how toxic we are being through the internet and how it is seeping into our everyday lives. You won’t regret deleting social media. It made things so much better for me and my health, and I am confident that it will do the same for anyone reading this who is struggling with mental health or self confidence like I was.

I had begged my parents to let me open an account, and after a discussion about internet safety, I was finally allowed to have one. It ruined my life in less than a month.

Rachel, 23, Lake Oswego, United States
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Rachel, 23, Lake Oswego, United States
February 24, 2021

I started my freshman year of high school in 2011. By then most of my peers already Facebook accounts and I was feeling left out from all the fun they seemed to be having online. I had begged my parents to let me open an account, and after a discussion about internet safety, I was finally allowed to have one. It ruined my life in less than a month.I rarely used my account to scroll through the news feed. I didn't add many friends at first, and only added people I knew at school and some family members. I thought I was using the service responsibly. But before long I found myself replacing in-person interaction with the private messaging system. I only remember hanging out with my friends at birthday parties and after school programs. I would finish my homework and get online, staying up past 2 am every night to chat with my friends and waking up at 6 am to get to school by 7:35. I quickly lost sleep, stopped exercising (even though I've always been involved in sports), and my health (both physical and mental) suffered for it. What I didn't realize at the time was that my online interactions perpetrated a toxic relationship with the guy I had a crush on at the time. He knew about it and he manipulated me by using my feelings for him as a weapon. I was so desperate for his attention that I would have done anything for it, and using social media exclusively meant I didn't have any other, healthy friendships to compare. He opened up to me about his mental health issues so I made up my own to fit in and try to relate to him. I told him I was so depressed that I started to believe it. It was the most insidious form of cyberbullying I've ever seen. I didn't realize how much I was hurting and I thought I deserved it because I was so desperate. I withdrew from my family, from all my other friends. I started self-harming and received validation for it. I hurt myself more. I lost more sleep. I exercised less. I withdrew more.Eventually it got so bad my parents installed controls on my computer that logged me off after 10 pm. I resented them for it at the time but it was the best thing they ever did for me. It saved me. I ended the toxic friendship. I found new friends. My health came back and I grew more connected with my family. Over the years I used my Facebook account less and less, until eventually the only reason I still maintained the account was because a few of my project teams in college used the messenger service to collaborate (and exchange memes).The harm it did was real and it still hurts. I still regret the friendships I withdrew from and how it hurt my family. I'm 23 now and finally deleted my Facebook account two months ago. I don't miss it at all.

14 years old and I had already gone three days without eating, addicted to instagram to see all these girls with perfect bodies. It felt like a downward spiral I could not get out of.

Francesca, 17, Manizales, Colombia
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Francesca, 17, Manizales, Colombia
February 24, 2021

I was happy. I was active, ballet, soccer, volleyball musical, number one in my class, lots of friends. My life was not perfect but I learned to manage it and to be positive. Then came freshman year of high school. Did he text me? How many people liked my post? Do I like how my body looks in pictures? Unfortunately, the answer was no. I found a community in social media to "help" me but it made everything worse. 14 years old and I had already gone three days without eating, addicted to instagram to see all these girls with perfect bodies. It felt like a downward spiral I could not get out of. But I did. It was a long process that I have not recovered completely of yet but I did it. Next, COVID hit and in quarantine my use of social media escalated exponentially. I stopped talking to my family, to my friends, and doing any exercise. Average of 6 to 7 hours on TikTok, wasting my life, my time, my life at 16 meant nothing. I got to a really dark place where I thought about self harm. I was not pretty enough, skinny enough, funny enough. No one would want me. Lie. Lie. Lie. After lie. Social media is full of lies, nothing you see is real but we are convinced that their lives are perfect whilst mine is awful. No it's not. Believe me. I'mm 17 now, escaping from that rabbit, dark hole. I feel so much better now, with a purpose. Do not get me wrong, I have no idea what I am going to do with my life once I graduate, but everything seems clearer now. It all started with a long break from social media.

I was already thinking about what kind of picture I wanted to take, who to take it with, and what caption I would tag along with the post even before the event actually happened.

Anonymous, 18, , South Korea
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Anonymous, 18, , South Korea
February 24, 2021

I have never had a healthy relationship with social media from the start. However, I only became aware of our toxic relationship years later. But ironically, the moment I realized social media is harmful to me was not the moment I cut it out of my life. Toxic relationships, as toxic as they are, are comforting and addicting. Just like toxic relationships between people, it is not easy to get rid of a relationship with social media because it feels like you're getting rid of a relationship with yourself. We build social media accounts as if we are building our identity. I started in middle school and it all started as a harmless interest of seeing what my friends were doing and receiving positive comments that made me feel happy and accepted. I started planning my life around my Instagram posts. I was already thinking about what kind of picture I wanted to take, who to take it with, and what caption I would tag along with the post even before the event actually happened. The hour after I posted a picture was the most thrilling moment as I excitedly waited for the notifications of likes and comments. I felt happily obliged to reply to all the comments, thinking that not replying would make people think that I was a mean person. But, I was not. My Instagram profile was crafted to make you think that I had a lot of friends. I got along with all of them and I was popular. I had a few hundred followers and always more than a hundred likes. I knew that Instagram was not good for me when I started feeling terrible after I could not let go of my phone after an hour of using the app. I felt like I was addicted, and I knew that I was. And so, I created challenges for myself. I did an Instagram fast for 1 week. 1 week went to 1 month. During those weeks or months I did not use Instagram, I felt victorious and triumphant, like I had finally regained control over the app instead of letting the app continue its reign over me. However, every time I went back to the app, it felt like I was sucked back into a black hole. Negative feelings continued to pile up onto each other: I felt uncomfortable seeing other people look popular and enjoying their life more than I did. I would have rather not known that my friends were hanging out without me. I had no interest whatsoever on what this person was eating for lunch. What really is the point of this app now? The one purpose I held onto was connection. I wanted to connect with my friends living in another country as well as connect with my past: my precious old pictures and comments. This seemed like a good enough reason to keep my account. Then, this one incident that made me confront myself with this question: Now, do you really want to keep this app? It was out of the blue when my private account received messages from unknown accounts. Those messages opened my eyes up to the horrifying dark world of social media as the sexual harassment lasted for several months. Luckily I knew what to do: I took screenshots and reported the accounts. However, the harassment continued and the app I had known for so long and had grown reliant to, was not helping me at all in this time of desperation- just like a toxic partner. Instagram was completely useless in keeping sexual harassment messages from coming my way. I felt sick, horrified, disgusted, and terrified. I took things in my own hand and changed my username multiple times to be found again by the same group of anonymous attackers who knew my name. Instagram's algorithm and the fact that these people could find my account which was private and did not have a biography, was extremely shocking. Reporting it to my local police station did not solve my problem. There was nothing they could do to handle these foreign anonymous attackers as Instagram denied giving access to my local police on the attackers. I was left to handle this on my own, but what could I do? I could choose not to have this account anymore. Then, I would not receive such messages. However, even after I had gone through those traumatic experiences, it was difficult to automatically delete my account. Perhaps it was because of all the effort I put into building my profile and all the memories I had stored in my memory book. This was my ugly truth. My social truth. It took time, weeks, actually, of not using the app and putting my ultimate health and happiness first to finally reach to the conclusion of deleting my account. I made this decision because ultimately, the benefits Instagram gave me became completely overshadowed by the pain, damages, and fear it had caused. The purpose of my account was for connection, and I realized that the "connections" I had on Instagram were not genuine at all. Deleting my account was a lot easier than I thought, and I felt like I had finally regained control over this large part of my life. At the end, I bravely chose my wellbeing. (I'm happy to be contacted to share more about my experiences.)

Tik Tok had started recommending weight loss videos and “what I eat in a day” videos to my “For You” page.

Anonymous, 13, Orange County, United States
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Anonymous, 13, Orange County, United States
February 24, 2021

Last year I experienced feelings of depression and even gained an eating disorder because of apps such as Tiktok and Instagram. I would see people online who were older than me posting about the best/most unique parts of their life and theirselves. By seeing these I was convinced I was not good enough. Tiktok had started recommending weight loss videos and “what I eat in a day” videos to my “For You” page. These videos promoted the comparing going on in my mind by only filling me with thoughts about how I could alter myself to be “better.” I ended up isolating myself and was on the verge of going to the hospital. To this day I still have a bad relationship with food but I have now realized the horrible impact social media had on me. When I now try to have conversations with my friends they want to go on their phones. This has caused a great problem in which my friends no longer know how to converse “IRL”. Hopefully by speaking up about these problems there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. For now I appreciate all the work everyone is doing to change the negative side to social media.

I'm finding the right direction no thanks to social media and I hope with my whole heart that future generations don't have to go through such scarring things.

Isaac, 16, Burleson, United States
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Isaac, 16, Burleson, United States
February 24, 2021

My name is Isaac, I'm 16 and id like to share the impact social media has had on my entire existence. I was raised in an abusive household full of drugs and manipulation. My parents divorced when I was 7 and I had gotten a phone from my mother at the young age of 7 to contact my father because he was no longer in our household. Having been surrounded by the internet since such a young age I have a pretty decent understanding of media and it's effects on society today, I've witnessed people dying, pornography and animal abuse and more all by the age of 12 due to the unregulated internet and my young curious mind. Fast forward to high school I've experienced cyber bullying and lies created about me on social media which has been one of the causes me to get into fights and abuse multiple substances(Marijuana, LSD, MDMA, Adderall, etc.) This January I got kicked out of school due to those reasons coming back to bite me. Now, December 2020, I've graduated with an online program at the age of 16 and just recently I decided to delete social media. To delete the worry of what other people who I don't even talk to think about me, to delete the horrid things and false information that has been spread into my brain and into my peers brains. I'm finding the right direction no thanks to social media and I hope with my whole heart that future generations don't have to go through such scarring things. I am so glad I no longer waste away my days staring at a screen hiding internal conflict and I can contribute to society and move the world into a positive direction. I would love to help the social truth and help create ideas to end the societal sufferings my country and my planet are experiencing.

Facing food instability and homelessness, there were seemingly “small” images, videos, and advertisements in social media that I would see that would remind me over and over that I was different.

Juliana, 20, Tallahassee, United States
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Juliana, 20, Tallahassee, United States
February 24, 2021

I’ve learned in my experiences of social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat that the way in which we define certain words matter. When I say that we “define words”, I don’t mean defining words by researching the Oxford definition. I mean that we, as a society, collectively agree to certain societal norms and standards that are directly reflected in our social media feeds. These definitions seep into our understanding of ourselves and our understanding of what society expects from us. As an example, when I was in high school, I had a sense of being different from others because I was forced to grow up fast. Facing food instability and homelessness, there were seemingly “small” images, videos, and advertisements in social media that I would see that would remind me over and over that I was different. I would see people going to proms, football games, and parties, while I was working late hours to support myself financially. I would see these images repeatedly to the point that I began to mentally differentiate myself from others based on their social media presence, rather than who they were as people. Rather than speaking with my peers about who they are and where they came from, I closed myself off from the conversation, assuming I knew them because everyone tells the truth on social media, right? The presence of social media while I was in high school very much heightened my sense of being an “outcast”. I truly believe that if these platforms were written with humanity in mind, social media could have been a beautiful place for me to get the social support that I needed. I needed to be reminded that I was loved, looked out for, and seen, rather than different, invisible, and alone. Now that I am out of high school, I do set clear boundaries with social media because I know how it impacts me. I delete the apps during the holidays, because it provides a false sense of everyone living out of a Christmas movie. I use the screen time feature that Apple provides and limit myself. Now that I set clear boundaries with my relationship with social media, I can define what a “home” means. I can define what my sense of “normalcy” is. Removing myself from the societal expectations and standards that social media suffocates me with allows for me to see the world for what it is: a beautiful place filled with people who have their own experiences that I can learn from, rather than a place where everyone is “living their best life” without struggle. Normalize adversity and authenticity in social media, rather than forcing us to pretend that our struggles do not exist. Thank you for listening.

Deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts has completely changed my lifestyle, my thoughts, my days, everything!

Konstantina, 23, Athens, Greece
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Konstantina, 23, Athens, Greece
February 24, 2021

Hello! I'm 23 years old student from Greece!I would love to share my experience about the best decision I have ever made in my life! Deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts has completely changed my lifestyle, my thoughts, my days, everything! There was a period of time I was addicted to Instagram, Insta Stories etc. Then, I started thinking.. Why do I watch others personal stories? Why do I spend so much time watching what others do? Do I really care? Why do I share my personal life?? I post my personal moments or thoughts or everything to people that I don't even know or care about their opinion.. After deleting my Instagram account, I've started spending a lot of time scrolling on Facebook... Everything has changed when I watched "the social dilemma". When I watched this amazing documentary, I immediately deleted my facebook account. I got so sick of this system and the advertisements. I really don't need these applications and no one does. I am so happy now. I have new hobbies and the most important thing is that whoever wants to talk to me, he'll call me. He won't remember me cause I just uploaded a photo, or a story... Congratulations to all those people who participated in this documentary. Great work and great team! The tips in the end are super helpful.

Seeing a notification from him made my heart drop, since it was usually something terrifying, but I could never turn away.

Sophia, 15, Basking Ridge, USA
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Sophia, 15, Basking Ridge, USA
February 24, 2021

When I was in 7th grade, someone who I thought was my best friend was emotionally abusive for over a year on Snapchat. He sent me videos of him self harming, would tell me he would commit suicide then not respond for hours to scare me, make me spend hours and hours of my energy to talk him off the ledge, and make me feel like I was never good enough to save him. Seeing a notification from him made my heart drop, since it was usually something terrifying, but I could never turn away. If I left him on open or on delivered, I was scared he would die. If I didn't spend all of my energy on typing pages and pages of chats trying to help him, I was scared he would die. The whole time I thought I was just being a good friend. This unmonitored exchange of Snapchats completely traumatized me and robbed me of my innocence, happiness, and trust in future friends. Since he lived far away, I thought Snapchat was the only way I could possibly keep this emotionally draining friendship, and since I was on Snapchat 24/7, I could never get away from him. I ended up ending our friendship because he threatened to kill my friend and her entire family lol, but I was left emotionally scarred, and this single friendship over Snapchat caused me myself to fall down a rabbit hole of depression, anxiety, OCD, suicidal ideation, and self harm. While the real person to blame was the friend, Snapchat's addictive layout and system of highs and lows set the emotional harm over the edge.

I'm tired of feeling like I'm dumb, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not popular enough, not everything enough

Lily, 20, Los Angeles, United States
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Lily, 20, Los Angeles, United States
February 24, 2021

As someone who was in the 8th grade when Instagram first came out I remember it an innocent hub of photos, but it wasn't too far down the like that likes and followers were a big factor to your profile. I remember being in 8th grade and making excuses to my parents why I should make a Instagram, meanwhile I did have a facebook, my first experience with that being one for a school project. My parents at the time were not aware of Instagram and what it was about, I wish they didn't let me make an account but I was granted permission so I had two. fairly innocent, I would post random photos. fast forward high school and in and out of high school I am disabling my social media and getting back on it, constantly. I thought that me getting a flip phone would decrease my social media use but it didn't, I would use my brothers iPad. I see how people have all different perspectives of social media. but at the end of the day its a fake profile. I had to disable my social media this month after debating for a few months. I already knew when I had a social media account how different it feels when I don't have one, but I know the best thing to do is to not have one. I find myself educating myself more on what's going on all around. The thing is, that I've noticed among my generation is that social media is playing a huge part in allowing people to just follow the herd, and even though the people posting may feel like they are "woke" or "fighting the system" they are not open minded to understanding that there are people who may have a different opinion about things and that is okay, as humans we are all allowed to have different perspectives and understandings on certain issues, but when it comes to that Instagram story, if you were to post the slightest thing different from what everyone else posts, you get totally bashed for it. Social media is creating a generation of people who may think they are on the frontlines but in fact, sitting in the back not actually putting there posts to action. It is all about action. Social media is shaping the minds of our growing generation when we should be the ones to shape it ourselves. I am scared and I'm concerned about the depression, narcissistic, one sided perspectives our generation will start to have. I done think people understand that there is a world outside of there cell phone and there close circles. There is a whole world out there, what are we doing staring at a screen comparing ourselves to fakeness. I'm tired of feeling like I'm dumb, not pretty enough, not rich enough, not popular enough, not everything enough- that is all the illusion of social media. Ever since being off social media this time around I have taken the full detox, no tik tok, snapchat , Instagram face book, none of it. I am learning so many things about myself, what it means to be 20 and how these years are crucial to my growth as a human being on this earth. I think in the future there's going to be two types of people, those that 100% embrace all the factors of technology and those who may question it and those who choose to stick to reality, which means that we endure less dopamine to the brain than those who accept all the crazy wonders of technology. I have decided to use my brain, my skills, my personality and all things that make me in the real word. If I truly cared to talk to someone, or if someone truly cared to talk to me, we could just give each other a phone call or send a dang letter! It's not that hard, I hope more people my age grow to realize this. I am tired of having narcissistic friends that only care about taking selfies and getting likes.

The cake recipes sandwiched in between crash diets and messages to love yourself were disorienting.

Clare, 17, Dayton, United States
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Clare, 17, Dayton, United States
February 24, 2021

When I was younger, in middle school, I made a conscious effort not to be on social media because I knew the effects it could have. Eventually though, I started to feel left behind, not only by my friends who were online, but I kept being told I needed to be on it if I wanted to get published as an author in the future. As I got older I realized this was no longer an individual choice I was allowed to make. It was how the world worked, and I would have to conform in order to get my work to a larger audience. The final straw was realizing I was already stuck in scrolling cycles, if it wasn't on social media yet it was on a news app or Buzzfeed, whatever I could find. when I finally caved I experienced the negative aspects first-hand. The cake recipes sandwiched in between crash diets and messages to love yourself were disorienting. Every time I saw a message that made me feel good I was two swipes away from one that wouldn't. I especially started to become invested in activism and politics, but social media adds a new layer of pressure. You must always be aware of the tragedies going on in the world and if you don't repost them then you clearly don't care. You can never be 'woke' enough, you're always saying something wrong, and you see the backlash from it, even from friends. I've noticed people are a lot more radical online, several of my friends have posted "If you support (insert political candidate) I will not associate with you." It's disappointing to see them not only make rash assumptions about other's beliefs in that way but to be openly propagating it. How can they ensure their assumptions are founded in reality if they aren't associating with these people? My friends don't mean this I'm sure, but that is the precise problem with the polarizing effects of social media. It would be best for me to remove social media altogether, but as I mentioned, it's necessary for networking, so I must learn to use social media more healthily. I only use Instagram and YouTube as opposed to other apps, which helps. I've written a research argumentative paper on the role of social media in polarization and radicalization, and am looking forward to working with the company LOG OFF in the future. In the paper, I argued for a governmental committee on the advancement of technology and the revision of Section 230, which is largely responsible for the way social media works today. There are, of course, fixes we can all make around screen time and who we follow, but young people will continue to get trapped in this hole we have to dig ourselves out of unless the laws start to change. The algorithms must change, otherwise, the problems we face now will only incur for the next generation.

My morning time ritual became an afternoon ritual to a night ritual, to an all day ritual where I would habitually check my phone every hour, eagerly waiting for the next notification to come in.

Sam, 18, New York City,
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Sam, 18, New York City,
February 24, 2021

Social media had always been in the background for me. Something to check to in-between classes, whenever I was bored, and before I went to sleep. Then, quarantine hit, and I graduated from high school. Quarantine meant being bored 24/7 which meant my social media usage went up, up, up. And upon graduating high school, I started becoming aware that I had to start upping my game to get experiences on my resume, and in order to get experiences on my resume, I had to go out and find them. So I joined a bunch of Facebook groups, discord servers, slack channels, and subreddits. What resulted was a ritual which occurred several times a day where I would first check my iCloud email, then my gmails, then linkedin, then reddit, then Facebook, then discord, then Slack, and then, of course Instagram. Over the course of quarantine I became addicted to my phone and checking every single notification that came through, because you never knew what kind of opportunities I could miss out on if I missed a single notification. My morning time ritual became an afternoon ritual to a night ritual, to an all day ritual where I would habitually check my phone every hour, eagerly waiting for the next notification to come in. I’m currently trying to curb my usage, but I’ll be honest, it’s hard. Especially because the truth is you can’t find good opportunities without the resources online. But I’m trying. It’s going to take a long long journey for me to stop feeling phantom notifications and constantly refreshing my feed...

There were many times I fell into that common spiral of comparing my life to that of the glitz and glamour I saw on-screen.

Chanel, 25, Santa Barbara, United States
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Chanel, 25, Santa Barbara, United States
February 24, 2021

Social media... Where to start? There were many times I fell into that common spiral of comparing my life to that of the glitz and glamour I saw on-screen. I've lost a cousin to suicide who I would've never guessed had depression because of what he posted. I've also had to endure the harmful effects of cyberbullying, the constant validation-seeking and "needing-to-prove" mentality, and so on. While both experiences affected me greatly, they opened up my eyes to the bigger picture: What we see on the Internet is not always what's happening in reality; It's just a fraction. In order for my experiences on social media to feel more fulfilling and positive, I started working towards using it less. Eventually, I found myself only keeping up with those I maintained connections with. I deleted my Facebook account in 2018 and always went back to Twitter but finally deleted it this year after seeing a bunch of political debate that often looked like unhealthy arguments. Something that I also do often and consciously so is de-cluttering my Instagram feed every once in awhile. That meant following accounts that were good for my mental health, and unfollowing a number of other accounts. Over time, social media become more of a fun and creative outlet. It's been a more authentic, intimate experience. Having a healthier relationship with social media makes life easy, relieves social pressure, and also allows me to genuinely connect with those I care about and care about me. These days, mental health issues are on the rise and social media usage is making it hard to live life. Some platforms are so addictive that it's hard to maintain self-awareness and have control. I think it's important it is to separate digital worlds from the life that's unfolding right in front of us. True human connection is what the world needs now more than ever. I hope that the industry can becomes healthier for society's sake, and that people don't have to experience the harmful effects before they take it upon themselves to change their habits.

...it isn’t the people that I fear but the application itself that makes me do things I’m consciously unaware of.

Mira, 21, Seremban, Malaysia
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Mira, 21, Seremban, Malaysia
February 24, 2021

3 weeks before watch the Netflix film, I had deleted my Instagram account because Something just hit me and I’ve been quite unhappy for a real long time the more I spend my time on the app. After watching the movie, I have gotten a clear picture of what’s actually going on and I felt rather relieved and paranoid at the same time. I used to be very careful on what I share on my social media accounts but now I’m not so sure anymore because it isn’t the people that I fear but the application itself that makes me do things I’m consciously unaware of. I have reduced my usage of Twitter and Snapchat. Most of my friends think I’m just being paranoid or plain stupid but I know my priorities now. I have learned how to manage my time and I feel free. I’m not obliged to post anything or have the need to even share a picture of what I ate. I don’t care what people do with their lives because in the end of the day I have to take care of my mental health and stability. I wouldn’t say I have completely deleted my social media accounts, but I have learned to use them wisely as a tool instead. And I have to thank the film for this.

I felt so insecure about myself. My abilities, my looks, my roots, my potential. This because I was comparing my life with people around me and people I saw on social media.

Nathan, 21, Midlaren, Netherlands
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Nathan, 21, Midlaren, Netherlands
February 24, 2021

I felt so insecure about myself. My abilities, my looks, my roots, my potential. This because I was comparing my life with people around me and people I saw on social media. I never realized being different is my key to joy and happiness. I still struggle with social media because I think I can't miss out. It has been integrated in my being because I've been using it since I was a teenager. I'm sort of afraid that I'll miss important updates about people and the world when I would delete it. It feels like I'm not strong enough to make this decision. I often doubt about it and this doubt is eating away my believes of having a great willpower. I used to be on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter but I got rid of that attraction. Now I only feel being stuck with Instagram especially. And YouTube sometimes as well.

My peers began shifting from jovial university freshman to bitter introverts.

Triston, 24, Grass Valley, United States
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Triston, 24, Grass Valley, United States
February 24, 2021

There was a time in 2017 when I began to notice the effects of social media algorithms on my community. I had just set off for University in Montreal, Canada as a psychology student. I was excited to make new friends and engage with communities away from where my hometown in Northern California. But unfortunately it was during this time that I feel the power of the algorithms started to take off and have a palpable effect on the people around me. My peers began shifting from jovial university freshman to bitter introverts. The common tropes fuelling the simmering resentments among my friend groups ranged from the common and occasionally entertaining rants by young women about how they "hated men" to more shocking and confusing ideas such as "killing the bourgeoisie." Statements such as the latter were more common than I was comfortable with and I continually found myself blown away these ideas could be casually raised while hanging out at bars on Friday nights. People I had known for years becoming bitter enemies over politics was an all too common occurrence. But for me the most painful part of this sudden onset of social media tribalism was the subtle ever-present underlying sense of being policed by the people around you, sometimes the people closest to you. The feeling that I had to be "clean" and free from the blemishes of political or social nuance. Blending in with the binary "rights" and "wrongs" of ideology. I should mention that generally I'm a very agreeable and politically correct person. However, as my community became more hostile I became more and more convinced that I had extreme positions that should not be spoken. Soon after feeling the weight of all of this I began to investigate my own Facebook and Instagram feeds and got a sense of the source of the issue. 2018 was the year that I could not shut up about algorithms, as I was genuinely afraid of what was happening. I learned what I could primarily through the writings and lectures of Jaron Lanier, as he is the only figure I found who I felt treated the problem with the appropriate degree of seriousness. Our society cannot bare the weight of continued polarization. I was so delighted with the release of the Social Dilemma. With the film as our foundation I feel we have the tools to genuinely address this issue.

...I still struggle with the endless scroll of the Instagram explore page. Feeling lonely over quarantine has made me more vulnerable.

Maddie, 17, Yakima, United States
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Maddie, 17, Yakima, United States
February 24, 2021

I joined social media since I was eleven. Mostly Instagram, a little Snapchat and Tumblr too. Luckily I stayed away from Musically and TikTok. I identified with the fandoms I found, since I felt alienated at school and wanted to belong somewhere. Things spiralled out of my control fast, although I didn't realize it was because of the social media until later. I was exposed to a lot of inappropriate content. I became addicted to self harm- it took years to get over. When I went to high school, I knew no one, felt helpless, and constantly seeing other kids' social lives made it feel unbearable. I'm nearly eighteen now, and only in the past year or so have I started to cut ties with it all. I stopped participating in fandoms a long ago, but I still struggle with the endless scroll of the Instagram explore page. Feeling lonely over quarantine has made me more vulnerable. Now, I only use Instagram to share my artwork with family and friends. I feel like I understand technology better, and have regained some control. I want to work in interface design when I'm older, to help move things in a more humane direction. I'm doing my best to educate myself and people around me... it's hard, though, to see the detrimental effects of the internet on people I love. I know so many kids addicted to YouTube. I've watched my dad's addiction to Huffington Post and YouTube grow over the last four years. It's exhausting to talk to him because he's always outraged about something. My mom watches too much Netflix and she's gaining weight. I can tell they feel guilty about it, but I can't get them to change, or realize willpower isn't enough. It's tough...

Now I have some friends who are always there for me and who know the real me and not the one who is virtually present only in their mobile phones.

Abhijeet, 21, North Solapur, India
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Abhijeet, 21, North Solapur, India
February 24, 2021

Let me clear this first of all that I was not addicted to any of these social media platforms. I am an undergrad. I started using Facebook since 7th standard, it was my friend who introduced me to Facebook. Initially there was only Facebook, smartphones were not there in the markets, there was scarcity of internet data. So my browsing was limited to Facebook only, it was the starting phase of Facebook and I was so desperate to go online, see what others are doing and the special feature of Facebook Chatting online. This single feature attracted me to Facebook a lot. Me and my friends used to spend a lot of hours in the cyber cafe just scrolling down the feed of my account and chatting with known and unknown friends. Whatsapp entered in the markets. This app changed all things for me, it made communication so easy and fast like never before. Sequentially all the social media accounts started to hit the markets. After wasting a lot of time on these platforms I realised that I am loosing some precious time of my life and helping earn money to some technocrats who build platforms like these. Then I quit facebook on 15 June 2017. Immediately after quitting facebook, it was something unusual for me, But after some time I got used to it. Now its been 3.5 yrs and I don't think I'll be ever activate my Facebook account. Now as whatsapp is there for some official purposes as well, till now I was unable to get rid of it. but as I have finished my college I uninstalled whatsapp. and now I am not active on any social media.Impact of Quitting Social Media accounts:-Aaaahh after social media my life become so easy to live. I started reading books, I could concentrate on my studies much better, I am loving trees and some pet animals. I spend like days with some of my close friends...... sitting in cafe.... getting to know each other in this real world. Now I have some friends who are always there for me and who know the real me and not the one who is virtually present only in their mobile phones. I am knowing myself much better, working on my strengths and weaknesses, I am building myself and creating my own future. At the same time now I am more sensitive towards environmental problems, societal issues etc. Actually I was active only on Facebook, Whatsapp, Youtube and Telegram. After knowing what happens behind the screen of my mobile (like the algorithms and all) I am more aware of my actions on internet, and I don't think that I'll be active again on these platforms except for official use.Guys just give yourself one chance to live without social media for some months.... you will realise the things which I have realised so far. Life is much more than this virtual reality.

I have good friends here, who are Bengali, and who are least bothered by my identity and consider me their friend, but in Facebook it's a different reality.

Anjana, 23, Midnapore, India
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Anjana, 23, Midnapore, India
February 24, 2021

Hi, I am Anjana, 23, currently pursuing my masters' in physics. I belong to a community called 'santal', ( often referred to as Schedule Tribe or ST catagory) who speak 'santhali'. Although I was born and brought up here, among the Bangalees, who speak Bengali. I also speak Bengali.1. Recently, my dad joined a WhatsApp group, where someone shared a post, with a photo of someone saying, ' all the santhals should be thrown out of the state, because they don't belong here'. Now, 'Santhal' or sometimes called, 'Adivasi', are considered to be indigenous people of India. Although, there is some conflict regarding this and some believe we don't own any land here and therefore, it is not a place for us to stay. Also students belonging to ST catagory are given reservation in pursuing their higher education, for being economically backward mostly, in any institutions across India. So when I saw the post, I felt disturbed. I have good friends here , who are Bengali, and who are least bothered by my identity and consider me their friend but in Facebook it's a different reality. And I am not even on Facebook, yet these hate messages can reach me and altering me view as how I am perceived by people around me. I have noticed, I am growing self conscious while talking to anybody , trying to figure out whether person I am talking to, hates me or not? Or, how he sees me? As just another human being or someone from the ' different ' community?As we are offered some relaxation, some say we are not worthy of what we achieve, as it is given to us and that generates hate among them. And these kind of posts online are fanning the flames. I am worried if I go out tomorrow who knows, what kind of backlash I have to face! I want to be alive and live a good life but seeing such things puts a doubt. I have deleted it from my dad's phone but the damage has already been done. This person could have reported this post instead what he did is sharing it with another 10 people and helped spreading it more. How do we stop that?2. I got my first smart phone in my first year of college and by the end of graduation I was already struggling with my you tube addiction. It cost me my health, both mental and physical and also affected my studies. My grades started falling, I was in a rut, sleeping 10- 12 hours a day and always felt so tired. I was constantly on my phone, checking out new videos and scrolling. It changed my eating habits, I started skipping meals and sometimes dinners. Even when I ate I ended up throwing every now and then.I was ill often and decided to stay with my family and get tratment. It took me a while to recover and pinpoint the reason which was causing all of these. In expense of missing out on opportunities to apply for the universities that I wanted so badly to be a part of as I missed the entrance exams due to my sickness. 3. Also, I see how it's affecting my friends in college. During breaks, everyone is glued to their screens and it's difficult to have a conversation with them, in real space and time. Except for, what memes are going viral, or some stupid roast video. Sometimes, I have to pretend that I like them and laugh along , which is exhausting. Last year, after my graduation I took a break of almost 6 months from all the social media platforms , asked my friends to call me or drop me a message in the inbox, if needed and the results has been profound. I started reading more books, started new creative projects , learning guitar and also paint down all the ideas that I had been sleeping on only to watch some stupid videos on YouTube. It's been 2 years now I have left Facebook and use YouTube a lot less. I would have left WhatsApp if it weren't for the online classes. Right now it feels like those 6 months were the most ' alive ' and ' present' time that I have had. I was afraid that i might miss out something but after been through this ' retreat ' several times, it doesn't bother me much. And my friends also do this. We just have to message each other in advance that we need to get off the grid for sometime and will be unavailable, and it is okay with them.

Nearly half of my day goes just into doom scrolling Twitter, Reddit and YouTube.

Jagadesh Ram, 22, Chennai, India
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Jagadesh Ram, 22, Chennai, India
February 24, 2021

Nearly half of my day goes just into doom scrolling twitter, reddit and youtube. these are the three apps which am using currently since when i heard about the Cambridge analytica, the next hour after watching Chris wylie video on guardian youtube channel, i immediately deactivated my facebook account and started using Instagram and got way addicted than i was with facebook. This went on for a while and started seeing ads that crawled with me all along with the internet.one day me and friends were talking about buying a product which will be useful for us in the winter season and suddenly, the same exact product from the exact company which we were discussing about earlier popped up on my youtube ads. this was way weird and i started noticing every single detail of this ads creeping with me since am a front end developer and i know how ad sense works. but this was way weird since we were just talking about it and i have never searched on the internet for it. After few hours the same ads pops in my Instagram feed and i was like "what the f*** is happening". after a while my friend who was with me at that time faced the same thing in his Instagram feed. Right now everyone who was connected with same wifi in that room admitted that they were also seeing the same ad within hours after the i experienced it. So, i was convinced that there is a shared data log not just within facebook and Instagram, it was with different companies like youtube and instagram. soon after that i started deleted my instagram and found signal app much more convincing for my privacy issues. and till now i happily using signal as primary driver for communication. But this void was quickly filled with twitter and reddit. both never really were as intrusive as the facebook or instagram but now my addiction for social media is getting way more out of my control. When i came to know about the social dilemma movie, i knew hands down that this is going to make some tides in the tech community. the day after it came out on Netflix i watched it right away in the middle of my office hours as it was more important to me to cure this addiction i feel towards using social media. Now i feel way more stronger and brave to speak out something that i felt all these years. Thanks to tristan harris for noticing this evil trend and calling out everyone.

#MySocialTruth is a story bank project for young people to share their experience on and off social media, and their ideas for how social media could be reimagined. The Center for Humane Technology will share #MySocialTruth with leaders from Washington DC to Silicon Valley.

Learn more about the movement for humane technology at humanetech.com.

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