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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#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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...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 deleted all my accounts and guess what! I became a human being again.
Swathi, 20, Eluru, India
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Swathi, 20, Eluru, India
October 14, 2021
Basically, I am an introvert. I can't get along with people that much in my high school. But after I joined college, I observed everyone using social media like Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, Twitter, etc. So I thought it would be cool if I joined them too and it helped me in a way to connect with people indirectly. But In this lockdown, I can literally say that I spent all my days seeing my Phone I didn't realize what I am losing in this real-world until I lost someone who is closer to my heart. After losing him, I am totally stuck inside my mind and depressed. So I changed my focus from thinking and used social media like crazy. I thought it will help me feel good. But day by day it's eating my brain and my anxiety has gotten worse. I am not having conversations with my family anymore. Then I realized that using social media and being addicted to it is the reason for all the chaos in my mind and my relations with family and friends. So I deactivated all of them for a month just to see how it works. And now I deleted all my accounts and guess what! I became a human being again. Most importantly I am happy now.

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...

Siri, 13, Cary, United States
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Siri, 13, Cary, United States
February 24, 2021

I downloaded TikTok for a short period of time out of peer pressure because all my friends had it and I wanted to see what it was like. I became addicted to it after a while and I remember just using it all day every day as much as I could. 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 just had this feeling of fear come over me as I realized that I was addicted to the app and without thinking about it I just deleted the app from my phone before I could second guess myself. I never got the app again nor did I get any other social media and I'm so so grateful for that decision. All of my other friends have Instagram and Tiktok and Snapchat and all of the other apps and I can really see how it affects them and how much they use it, I try to get them to use it less but it's hard and I really do think change needs to happen within the companies themselves in order to get this to stop.

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.

I had a totally different persona on FB.

Gayathiri, 24, Kandy, Sri Lanka
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Gayathiri, 24, Kandy, Sri Lanka
February 24, 2021

I don't even know where to begin. I created a facebook account when I was 19. I had a bad breakup and I was looking for ways to distract myself and facebook gave me the best platform to do that. I was in facebook all day along and eventually I facebook started determining my self worth. If someone comments on my post or messages me it will make me feel good. If my posts didn't get enough likes I would feel down. I started to get into fights with people over comments - the typical comment wars. I had a totally different persona on FB. It looked like I am an unapproachable rude person even though I am a humble person in real life. My fb contacts from university started perceiving me as my FB persona. It affected my self esteem a great deal. I felt awkward and shy to start a conversation with a new person. Where ever I went in campus I started to worry and wonder, who knows me and what they thought about me. I deleted my facebook account in last June and I feel really better. My self esteem has improved a great deal and I am really content, without knowing who got into relationship with whom and not getting into comment wars. People are taking social media way too serious. Yet again, when you enter into it, you get lost into a different kind of world that sucks you into it.

I began to be aware that I was believing things that... didn't exist.

Jasper, 24, Cape Town, South Africa
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Jasper, 24, Cape Town, South Africa
February 24, 2021

Both Facebook and Reddit were the worst. Facebook was an endless scrolling distraction, removing me from myself, making me watch more and more far right content, and distracting me from my friends, family and work. I despised it, and decided that I should try to live without it - but I still had Reddit. Reddit was okay? Surely? It was a way to get the newest information about the world? So was Youtube? They were just videos. How wrong I was. Firstly; Reddit became a balm for my social anxieties, and paradoxically, also a stimulant of them. There you can frolic and get drunk on the syrup of humour, new information and the illusion of debate and community. Meanwhile you get slowly sucked in, spending more and more time on it. I began to be aware that I was believing things that...didn't exist. Or they did exist, it just felt more and more like a cult, a group of anger and not support. I found that strain of outrage and anger in all my communities - I tried to take a break, but would be dragged willingly to gorge on the dopamine rush, the faerie food of reddit. Youtube is the same; I began to watch more right things - "the intellectual dark web" slowly stepping onto more and more anger and outrage and "common sense." I tried just "unliking" all the video I saw. That did not work. Then I began using blocking apps to stop recommendations, and only show subscriptions, and limit my time on Youtube. Facebook, Youtube and Reddit all led to a warped image of who I was, of what I was worth. Youtube and reddit fed into each other and led to an echo chamber, which led to a depression. After that I tried everything to stop myself being on any social media - I feel a lot happier.

Growing up with social media has been a roller coaster.
Joshua, 18, Harrison, United States
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Joshua, 18, Harrison, United States
April 12, 2022
When I was younger I always thought it was so cool to be on social media. I would see my older cousins using it, and as well as my parents. I was so fascinated by the virtual world and everything about it. My parents always tried pushing me away from social media like they were trying to save me from something. Looking back that was probably the best thing they could do for me but, that just made me crave it more. I wondered “what is through those locked codes”? I was fooled by society by thinking I was behind on something that I needed when in reality I didn't. There was a time when my older family members were laughing because of something on Facebook and I was extremely jealous that I cried. Honestly, they were probably trying to save me. This might be cheesy but, growing up with social media has been a roller coaster. Yes, social media has made me laugh, smile, boosted me with tons of motivation, but I've had some of my darkest times on social media. I have been a victim of cyberbullying. From middle school to me being a senior now, people have been homophobic to me online. It has been a common theme that has happened in my life, but I choose to not be phased by it too much. I didn't always think like this, I had to create thick skin. At the beginning of it all, I definitely would get trapped in dark holes that I never thought I would get out of. Thankfully, I know how to control it a little more, but that shouldn't be something that has to be learned. Social media can create self-protective motives that would've never existed if social media never existed. Modernly, I’m trying to disconnect from my phone. I have recently been feeling like I'm trapped as if I’m unable to escape. Usually, a lot of motivation comes from technical uses, so I want to get into journaling. I've noticed in the past that it has kept me at peace and helped me through many eras in my life. I want to start finding the motivation and confidence from within to achieve my goals. I know with hard work and dedication, anything can be accomplished. It has been hard recently though, only because of the recent state of the world. It seems as though, every time we move 1 step forward, we go 3 steps back. I'll be willingly trying to do things at home like meditating. It has been leaving me sane and keeps me from being off my phone, so for now, this is what's working.

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.

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 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.

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 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...

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 spent more than 6 hours on instagram, every day, without knowing it.
Ludovica, 24, Catania, Italy
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Ludovica, 24, Catania, Italy
August 16, 2021
I struggled to organize my studies and I didn't take exams because I spent my days scrolling through instagram posts and watching videos on youtube. I spent more than 6 hours on instagram, every day, without knowing it. In those hours I could have studied to build my future, so I had to use an App Block app to force myself to do something concrete.
One day I found a snuff video on my Facebook timeline
Felix, 24, Berlin, Germany
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Felix, 24, Berlin, Germany
March 4, 2022
One day I found a snuff video on my Facebook timeline showing 3 women being beheaded. Nobody had shared this video, it was just there. When I later found out that Facebook was conducting psychological tests to see how to demoralize people, I realized that I had been a participant in one of these experiments. After that I was very unhappy and afraid that one day another horrific video would show up on my timeline without me being able to do anything about it. I then deleted all my social media accounts and have been living much happier for 4 years now.

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!

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 finally reached a point where I couldn't stand the yelling and screaming that seemed to come from every voice on the app
Victoria, 22, Toronto, Canada
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Victoria, 22, Toronto, Canada
August 11, 2021
I was beginning to feel overwhelmed every single time I clicked to open one of my social media apps. As someone who likes to be informed about world events and engaged as a global citizen, Instagram (my app of choice) was becoming a key source of learning and news. I was proud to be an armchair expert on every issue taking place in the world at one time... until I realized just how exhausting that can be. I found myself bracing for bad news and getting caught down rabbit trails of information while telling myself it was just some "mindless scrolling". It was easy to decide which of my friends and followers were on the same 'side' as me when it came to controversial topics and I was aware that my opinion of some of them were changing quite rapidly. The pressure to post my own stance was profound, and even when I reached a point of comfortability with my own decision to stay out of the conversation, or to share something I had found meaningful, there was no short of collateral damage. I argued with people that in real life are very close friends and family, and felt anxious that this would change our 'real' relationships. I finally reached a point where I couldn't stand the yelling and screaming that seemed to come from every voice on the app and took a break. The relief that followed was unmistakably freeing. Now I choose which global events I have the capacity to engage with, and have meaningful conversations with people face-to-face. I am still learning to set boundaries and listen well to others that have different perspectives, but I'm glad I get to do this with real people.

[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 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...

...spend hours in front of the mirror degrading myself with hurtful comments about my body
Ishika, 17, Varanasi, India
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Ishika, 17, Varanasi, India
August 16, 2021
I have left Instagram for about 3 years now but it never left me. I remember comparing myself to influencer and believing that that's how they look in real life and then spend hours in front of the mirror degrading myself with hurtful comments about my body which does not come under the so-called beauty standard, a practice through which I am still struggling... this led to depression and my existing anxiety became severe and I almost committed suicide because I did not have enough followers and did not get many likes and once I realized how stupid and dangerous I have become I deleted my account, then I started suffering from FOMO and my mental health started to further deteriorate, this went on for some time until I changed my friends' circle, then as I was in the process of recovery I was always tempted to once again create an account but somehow managed not to and that I consider to be my best decision. As for now, I am still recovering from depression and still haven't been able to get out of my habit of comparing myself to others.

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.

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.

Sometimes I feel like I can't tell the difference between the image and my life...

Heather, 17, Montréal, Canada
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Heather, 17, Montréal, Canada
February 24, 2021

Last night, I compared myself to different models and couples on Instagram. Then I went to look for the meaning or definition in psychology on why I need to compare myself to others?And I felt sadness, my self-esteem was at its lowest, these images are ideological, the things that are no longer fashionable, the problems of buttons, and indirectly I feel influenced by all that.And that influences my conversations with my friends. By talking about it with my close friends, I decided to uninstall my account. I decided to just uninstall without disconnecting my account to start. To keep consistency.Sometimes I feel like I can't tell the difference between the image and my life, and I remembered a comment from my big sister who told me that she had a clothing style influenced by networks.While my best friend was talking to me, I noticed that she adopted the same style that we find in some videos we see on Tik-Tok, it is so above us, we have very little latitudeI find that a lot of young people post quotes about the right way of life. And that is completely wrong, that is not at all our reality. Many famous people publish quotes and young people take examples on it, it is serious.

The day I graduated from college, I uploaded an Instagram post sharing the news with my network, only to realize a few hours later that I was checking how many like I got.

Bautista, 24, Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Bautista, 24, Buenos Aires, Argentina
February 24, 2021

After several months of feeling uneasy with social media, I reached my turning point 3 years ago and never ever looked back. The day I graduated from college, I uploaded an Instagram post sharing the news with my network, only to realize a few hours later that I was checking how many like I got.At that moment, I said to myself "How is it possible that after 4 years of hard work and studying, I'm paying more attention to the count of likes instead of being innerly satisfied with the goal accomplished and the closure of an important stage in life?". After that, I stopped using all my social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin) and continued to see more and more downsides of the apps I used, specially in those around me. Once you quit, you really see how addicted people have become to their phones and social accounts.It's as if a cloud had been lifted from my sight. My attention came back to focus and I could reconnect with the real world, real interactions and real bonding with people. All in all, if social media doesn't make your daily life happier, what's the point in having them at all?

Instagram was making me hate myself and made me want to be someone I wasn't.

Jay, 21, Garfield, United States
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Jay, 21, Garfield, United States
February 24, 2021

I used to be on Instagram a lot, but at the age of about 15 or 16, I realized what it was doing to me. I realized it was making me feel bad about myself and having major fomo. It made kinda depressed so I decided to take the first step and not cave into the network effect where I feel like I have to have it to stay connected with people. I found that if people are meaningful enough they would connect with me in whichever way is comfortable. Instagram was making me hate myself and made me want to be someone I wasn't. I'm glad I realized its impact on me at an early age and stay away from social media for months. I did go back eventually, but this time I stopped posting because I didn't want to make others feel bad. Then just recently after social dilemma, I decided to unfollow everyone who wasn't close to me and now my feed mainly composes of funny videos which is why I mainly use it. When looking at social media from the outside in, you can see the deliberate steps that companies have taken to ensure you stay on their platform and pay attention to it. I truly believe that social media is not good for society, at least the way it is currently being represented. I think after social dilemma, the next documentary should be about dating apps, because they are pretty great at making some people feel really bad about themselves and making others feel great. Also the way they are marketed, it almost makes you feel like that is the only way to actually meet someone. Linked in also makes you feel bad about your career but I still use it just for the profile for recruiters. Wish that didn't feel like the only way either.

I decided to finally let go of Tiktok and Instagram... I found myself getting to bed at 10pm, instead of the usual 1 or 2 am
Yvette, 16, Hsinchu City, Taiwan
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Yvette, 16, Hsinchu City, Taiwan
August 16, 2021
Up until around three months ago, I was averaging 4 to 5 hours per day on my phone, with the number going up to 14 hours over the weekends, most of which was being spent on Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube. Having grown up in the digital age, I never felt as if my life was good, not even as a kid. I envied many of the things I saw on social media and was exposed to many inappropriate situations far too young. After getting the book Digital Minimalism (Cal Newport) recommended to me, I decided to finally let go of Tiktok and Instagram, the two apps holding me back from doing things I truly care about. For the first week, I found myself getting to bed at 10pm, instead of the usual 1 or 2 am, but I also felt as if I was missing out. After two weeks, I decided to "reward" myself by getting Instagram back for just a day. What I found was that I truly did not care for the majority of the posts I missed, and that no one really noticed my absence. I believe that social media utilizes the 'spotlight effect' that creates a general sense of self-importance that would make us think that everyone else is hyperfocused on us. The day I downloaded Instagram back, I used it for three hours. When I realized, I was very disappointed and deleted it again, because I thought I had already beat the addiction. Now, months later, I feel very liberated. It's an odd feeling, but it feels as if I'm free to do whatever I want without the judgment of others. I still occasionally check my social media apps (once a week or so), but have used it instead to focus on the positive benefits it can bring, such as connecting to friends living abroad.

...we specifically learned different ways to keep users “hooked” to products and platforms by means of psychology.

Alexandria, 23, Deltona, United States
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Alexandria, 23, Deltona, United States
February 24, 2021

I’m getting my Master’s Degree in Mass Communications and Social Media (yes, social media), and will be graduating in December. I’ve absolutely loved the program thus far, and have learned more about the communications field and social media than I ever could have imagined. There have been many moments during the past year where I’ve felt so excited and hopeful about the field and the opportunities it brings. There have also been moments where I’ve felt uncertain about the field, even considering my own personal journey and realizations with social media. Beyond the intended benefits of connection and accessibility, I was seeing a toxicity from social media in my own life and the lives of the people around me. I began to fight this ethical battle in my head around the idea of someday contributing to the growth of toxicity in the field, or even just having to submerge myself in it for an income. In my Emerging Technologies class, we specifically learned different ways to keep users “hooked” to products and platforms by means of psychology. It was interesting from a creative and technical lens, but incredibly terrifying from the view of the consumer. I was suddenly realizing all of the methods and techniques that I was falling prey to, in a negative way. Later that semester, my professor assigned a reflection paper, and one of the questions was “are you excited about the emergence of technology and social media?”. To put simply, I wrote, “no, I’m not. In fact, I’m terrified. I see the benefits of connection and accessibility from both mediums, but I cannot ignore the impending negative impacts. When will it stop feeding us tailored information? When will it stop using our data for monetization? When will it stop affecting our mental health? I don’t know that it ever will”. I was expecting to get points taken off for my rant, but instead was met with an overwhelmingly agreeable response. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about social media. I wasn’t the only one considering deleting every single app off my phone despite paying thousands of dollars for a master’s degree in the field. I wasn’t the only one seeing the problems that needed fixing in the industry. But that didn’t make me feel any better. There wasn’t some weight that lifted off my shoulders in learning I wasn’t alone. If anything, it added more pounds onto whatever weight I was carrying in the first place. Then I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I obviously wasn’t met with any ease or calmness regarding my concerns with social media. However, seeing the former CEOs and Presidents of various social media platforms explaining their own frustrations with some of the systems they even helped to create gave me some much needed perspective. We are allowed, in fact encouraged, to be critical of the things we’re involved in or passionate about. Tristan Harris didn’t quit the field knowing what he knows; instead he remains in the field with hopes of fixing it. Fixing it starts with our own habits, and how we choose to be affected by the industry as consumers and contributors. Let’s limit our screen time. Let’s turn off our phones at night. Let’s turn off notifications for “who posted” or “who liked” and everything else that doesn’t matter. Let’s be intentional in our interactions beyond the phone screen. Let’s work to stop rewarding companies who use us as products with our time. Let’s acknowledge that we do not have to “cancel” social media to make it less toxic; instead we can work to make strides to steer the industry towards the way of positive growth for everyone. As I approach my (virtual) graduation and continue applying for jobs, I am keeping my ethics and desire to change this fragile and increasingly toxic industry at the forefront. While I see the obvious benefits of my industry and the many opportunities it provides for accessibility, growth, and connectivity, I also see the benefits of change and renovation as it pertains to ethics, health, and safety.

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.

I cared more about my follower to following ratio than I did about who the people interacting with me were.
Sydney, 17, Pittsburgh, United States
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Sydney, 17, Pittsburgh, United States
March 4, 2022
I cared more about my follower to following ratio than I did about who the people interacting with me were. I have been bullied at the hands of kids behind screens, and I don't know how to fix it. The truth is, with social media, there's no teacher or therapist to save you. Just a comment section.
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.

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.

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.)

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.

It made me feel overstimulated, like I had wasted hours of my time for nothing...

Dalton, 24, Manchester, United Kingdom
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Dalton, 24, Manchester, United Kingdom
February 24, 2021

Since I was born in the late 90s, like many others we had a time in our childhood where there wasn't any phones or social media. With that said, I was a teenager when iphones came out and I observed social media and the act of being online grow and grow. I realized early on that I didn't feel good when I used social media, I must've been around 17 (2013). I deleted all my social media. It made me feel overstimulated, like i had wasted hours of my time for nothing, and when i rejected social media (but kept facebook) I got criticism from my friends and family. At that point I saw how much social media was manipulating even the opinions of people around me. I really felt like this addiction to social media, which was so casually and socially accepted, was growing so much that there has to be a breaking point! And I'm so happy people are waking up and seeing how much it's hurting ourselves and the people we love and care about. I believe in the next 10 years things will look VERY different and it will be more humane!!!!! <3

Social Media Detox: that will be the best thing you'll ever do to your life.
Rodrigo, 20, Nova Friburgo, Brazil
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Rodrigo, 20, Nova Friburgo, Brazil
October 14, 2021
Social Media Detox: that will be the best thing you'll ever do to your life. Back in 2017 i was really addicted to social media. Every hour waiting for a notification, every time thinking about new posts and thinking about other people's posts. But when i deleted all social media based platforms I saw how your "friends list", in real life did not really care about you. Why people send friend requests in social media to people that in real life don't even look to our eyes and say "Good Morning, How you doing?". People that we always are worried about what they posted, about "likes", but in real life don't even chat, ignore and think that you don't exist. It is something like a second life - the online one, and it is really weird, I'm sure you don't like it either. Try it. I'm sure you'll give yourself more value and change the way you see yourself, the world and others.

My anxiety is spiking when I sit there and wait on people to like my stuff.

Lea, 21, Los Angeles, United States
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Lea, 21, Los Angeles, United States
February 24, 2021

So I have two experiences to share that both occured on instagram. I follow a lot of feminist and activist accounts. While I just wanted to support marginalised communities I have been vilified in the comments because people misunderstood me. One time I was accused of being homophobic even though I wanted to do the opposite with my comment and uplift the lgbtq+-community. I don't like being vilified for something I never said but I also know that sometimes it isn't worth it to fight with strangers about your moral opinions. The second experience I want to share is that because of post anxiety I can't post something on there except stories. I get so invested in how many likes I get that I just stopped posting except instagram stories. My anxiety is spiking when I sit there and wait on people to like my stuff. I've also come to an agreement with myself that I don't want to lie about my personal life so I'll never post anything personal because I don't wanna seem egocentric. I just made it my goal to uplift marginalised communities and voices. That's how I made peace with the craziness of social media.

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 sometimes wonder to myself when will I ever be perfect, like the girls on social media
Roselyn, 14, Menifee, United States
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Roselyn, 14, Menifee, United States
August 16, 2021
I sometimes wonder to myself when will I ever be perfect, like the girls on social media or models. It hurts when you look at them and you want to be them but also admire how everyone respects them more than someone from the “beauty stander”
the number of followers on Instagram became an index of how ugly or beautiful... a person is
Aadit, 16, Amritsar, India
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Aadit, 16, Amritsar, India
August 11, 2021
For me, the number of followers on Instagram became an index of how ugly or beautiful, or how good or bad a person is... As a result, I started disregarding my own talents and personality.

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 am facing the reality of the attention deficit and lack of real social skills that has left me with.
Kallum, 17, Birmingham, United Kingdom
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Kallum, 17, Birmingham, United Kingdom
August 16, 2021
I found myself becoming more and more addicted to apps like Instagram in my mid-teens, where I would spend hours just scrolling through content which had no meaning or value to me. Now as a young adult I am facing the reality of the attention deficit and lack of real social skills that has left me with. Something which was a trendy new tool to speak with friends quickly became an escape from reality and a means of 'fast-food' entertainment which undoubtedly has left me in need of a 'tech diet'. Now I think it's more important than ever to knock down and rebuild this idea of how we use digital technology and re-purpose it as a tool as it was meant to be - and to be completely honest I think that the CHT and their experience in industry are the perfect people to take lead in the issue.

What I've noticed is that TikTok has become a life-consuming obsession among young kids. Kids that aren't even in their teenage years yet, are glued to their phone screens 24/7.

Denise, 21, Weston, United States
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Denise, 21, Weston, United States
February 24, 2021

I'm a child caretaker currently working for a family in Connecticut.Generally I work with younger kids, but recently I joined a family with teenagers. I won't describe any further details for the sake of their privacy.What I've noticed is that TikTok has become a life-consuming obsession among young kids. Kids that aren't even in their teenage years yet, are glued to their phone screens 24/7. Some kids have admitted that they are addicted, they spend 14+ hours on social media in a day. Yet, when asked what's interesting about TikTok, they struggle to formulate an answer.It's impossible to have even a 5min conversation with them without them losing their focus and continuing their endless scroll. How does this impact their attention span? How does it impact their ability to have human conversations? I don't think we can even comprehend the full extent of damage that is being inflicted on their minds by allowing them to be so consumed by these online realms.Another growing concern is how fake news is impacting the younger generations. These stories are being forced on them through social media, misguiding their entire perception of the world they live in.All young children are naive by nature and will believe nearly anything they're exposed to without the consideration of getting a better idea of the bigger picture at hand.I think it's amazing how readily available such a broad scope of information has become through these online portals, but it's important that the information we receive is received with intentionality. We're all forcedly exposed to a one-sided perception of national and global activity due to targeted news and ads.We're robbed of the chance to know the TRUE FACTS of both sides of an argument, because we are limited to what the online portals think we should know instead of what we actually should know. I'm terribly afraid of how this addiction to technology and social media is impacting the younger generations. Not just today, but when these kids have grown to become the leaders of the world.I think that anyone with access to the internet and any social media channels should be well educated about what happens to the data that is taken from our interactions with the web. Why are the Big Tech companies so reluctant to share with us exactly what they use our data for? And more importantly, what data are they actually scraping from our interactions with their sites?If these companies are going to monopolize industries the way they have, and gain such value, we need to be much more aware of how we are really contributing to their scale and value. And why exactly their overtaking of these industries are causing a drastic increase in inequality.

After using it for 2 months I started feeling mentally disturbed as I felt self doubt, jealousy and anxious looking at various post of my friends on insta

Yash, 21, Nashik, India
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Yash, 21, Nashik, India
February 24, 2021

It was 2018 when I was in my first year of under graduation and I signed up on instagram...... After using it for 2 months I started feeling mentally disturbed as I felt self doubt, jealousy and anxious looking at various post of my friends on insta.....i used to compare myself to others for looks and followers and began hating myself.... I cried too sometimes about it.... So I started to unfollow people whose post induced negative feelings in my heart and also muted off the notifications of instagram ..... This Went for like 2 years and it was very hard for me to resist to not open the app....I even tried to disable my account but couldn't resist the urge to recover my account.... I asked myself why was I using insta.... It was taking toll on me as I felt like I m in prison so I deleted my insta account after lot of thought and hesitation ..... After deletion of my insta account , I felt so happy and started loving myself without comparing myself to others.... I started taking care of myself and my heart felt so free..... I stared focussing on my hobbies and work instead of worrying about my number of followers and feeling jealous about number of likes and comments on other ppl posts ........This has been one of the best decisions of my life .....Take care

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.

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.

...way too often I find the unconscious part of my brain instinctively clicking on snapchat and just wasting away time.

Nathan, 20, Troy, United States
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Nathan, 20, Troy, United States
February 24, 2021

When I think of social media, the first thing that comes to my head is how it lowers the quality of my in-person interactions with friends and family. Countless times this has happened where me and my friends go out to eat which requires carving out time from our busy routines to see each other. However, when we are actually standing in front of each other physically, no one is actually mentally there in the moment trying to enjoy the rare face to face encounter with the people we love. Instead, we're mentally consumed by something that could literally be done at any other time of the day -- scrolling through snapchat or Instagram stories. This doesn't make sense -- we made the plans to hang out and enjoy each other's company, so why are we using social media? Clearly, social media is designed in a way to make us crave it, need it, and unconsciously turn to it in moments where it wouldn't make sense to do so. Granted, this is something that I struggle with as well, which is extremely troubling since I think about this problem a lot -- imagine the people who are manipulated by this but don't notice the problem. Yet, way too often I find the unconscious part of my brain instinctively clicking on snapchat and just wasting away time. Our technology and social media can NOT be designed to manipulate and warp our unconscious behavior and decisions. This is seen first and foremost when even intentions to be present and enjoy the in person company of one another are defeated by the addictiveness of these platforms. I've found that only solution is to make it impossible for oneself to check social media -- shutting off phone, leaving phone at home, etc.Instead, the platforms should be designed with the intent of enriching our in-person lives, not warping our subconscious to crave acceptance and likes on the virtual platforms. At the very least, I think there should be a feature that detects how long you've been on the app, and forcing you to get off the app after an extended period of time. Personally, I have a snapchat addiction, and even though I feel unproductive and left out scrolling through snapchat stories and seeing what other people are doing (which I subconsciously look at when I have downtime). Yet, I can't just delete the app as a whole, since I communicate with my friends on the app, which I actually gain a lot of value from. I think there should be an option to opt out of the snapchat stories page, since that is not my intention to use that feature on the app. Yet, for me it has grasped the unconscious part of my brain and I find myself wasting time there.This deeply saddens me to be the generation this platform is tested on. While social media fuels our egos with likes and superficial attention, people are miserable standing in front of one another. I often times wonder what it would've been like to live 10 years ago. I wonder if I would be able to deepen my bonds with my friends and family, the people I love most, which is ultimately what really matters to in life -- not likes on social media. Through my experience, It's upsetting to feel the negative effects of social media. It's flat out immoral to create a product that warps our subconscious minds, which directly affects the connections we make with people in real life.

I used Instagram in night time and it affected my sleep.
Pratyush, 20, Pune, India
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Pratyush, 20, Pune, India
March 4, 2022
I used Instagram in night time and it affected my sleep. Already I had some personal mental issues like depression and anxiety and social media usage made my mental health worse. Whenever I felt alone and anxious and I used to scroll through Instagram. Every time I scrolled through Instagram, I ended up using it for more time than I initially decided. I knew that Instagram wasn't making me calm and relaxed, but still I couldn't stop it. I watched 'The Social Dilemma' and realized the whole game here and I quit Instagram. I am happier now.
I’m trying to prove to myself that I can rewire the thoughts in my brain
Nyah, 20, Leechburg, United States
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Nyah, 20, Leechburg, United States
March 4, 2022
The facts that shocked me the most after watching Social Dilemma were the facts about suicide rates & depression in preteen girls and young adults. Just like in the show, everyone in my class had an IPhone in middle school. I just HAD to have one. I was relentless. My parents just wanted to make me happy! At the time they weren't really thinking about any future consequences. I don’t blame them for that, knowing that they couldn’t of known any better. I mean what “user” could’ve? I believe the first smartphone came out during the 1900s. I believe that the first IPhone came out during the 2000s. Everyone just bought these products and started using them, no questions asked. Smartphones are something that some of us have ever known. Personally social media is all I’ve ever known since I was 14 years old. I’m 20 years old now and I’m trying to change that. I’m trying to make myself realize that it’s not NEEDED! I’m trying to prove to myself that I can rewire the thoughts in my brain that tell me it is NEEDED. I feel like I’ve been programmed to feel that way. After watching Social Dilemma, it just confirms that my feelings are valid. I have deleted all forms of my social media before. It is hard because the world around me doesn’t understand why I do it. I allow that pressure to get to me and I download again. I really need to listen to myself this time. I truly am happier without social media. I want to believe with my whole heart that this is a battle the world can face. People NEED to WAKE UP!!! #fakewoke

I realized I was becoming more hateful and less open minded.

Madison, 23, Louisville, United States
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Madison, 23, Louisville, United States
February 24, 2021

I deleted my favorite app TikTok last month. I spent hours upon hours everyday on the app. As a young Democrat, I only saw liberal messages and content creators on my FYP. I stopped seeing a conservation. Instead, it was an echo chamber of the same ideas. You stop viewing the other side with humanity if you never see or hear from them. I realized I was becoming more hateful and less open minded. After watching the Social Dilemma, I realized why. The algorithm only showed me content it thought I would like, ie liberal content. A light bulb flicked on in my head, and I immediately deleted all of my social media. I haven’t looked back, and I don’t miss it nearly as much as I thought I would.

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.

I realize I now have this unproductive habit of mindlessly scrolling through these pretty pictures, which is something I never used to do.

Abrielle, 25, Winter Park, United States
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Abrielle, 25, Winter Park, United States
February 24, 2021

I started my social media experience back in middle school (2008-2009) on MySpace, spending my free time checking on friends, doing bulletin board surveys, and learning to code in HTML to customize my page. After MySpace, I moved to Facebook in high school (2009-2013), I got sucked in more to what people thought of me, what I was being tagged in, liking pages, getting likes on my photos... I was sick of it, so I deactivated my profile when I graduated. I joined Instagram in the summer of 2013. At first, it was similar to Snapchat and Facebook; I used it to communicate with friends and see what they were up to. Then I started following cool travel pages, celebrities, movements, news sites... and I find myself with a feed of pretty pictures from people I don’t even know. I realize I now have this unproductive habit of mindlessly scrolling through these pretty pictures, which is something I never used to do. I’ve thought about deleting my Instagram, but I instead want to re-evaluate my use of it. I’ve turned off all notifications and I’ve begun a huge unfollowing spree for those accounts of people and groups I don’t know. I find it useless to be spending time staring at photos of beautiful places when I could instead be earning money to get myself there. I find it useless to be staring at beautiful women who I know are fake or portraying themselves in the best light they can find, looking at myself as inferior when I know the great shape I am in. Come to find out (big surprise), likes or comments on a photo do not affect my real life, and spending time focusing on them is a waste. I’ve put my phone in grayscale mode so that it’s not as pretty to look at, and I’m finding that I get sucked into those scrolling traps less. If I were to identify a specific problem, it’s the culture of influencers we’ve built and given our attention to. Travel influencers, fitness influencers, food influencers... pages to follow, scroll through, and mindlessly get lost in while letting all of our other responsibilities fall to the side. We find ourselves without enough time in the day, but never complain about the loads of meaningless funny videos we spend an hour watching and sharing (taking other people’s time from them). I want to unfollow all influencers. I only want to see my friends and people I know on my timeline, and then I want to make the conscious decision to check on them when I want to — NOT get trapped into scrolling through all of them. I would rather participate in a social media service without “Pages to Follow” like Facebook and without Influencers like Instagram. Mindless phone scrolling is the dumbest pastime that does absolutely nothing besides make us yearn for things we aren’t or don’t have. When I’m with my significant other, I don’t feel the need to touch my phone ALL day. It just proves it’s a habit based in boredom that breeds lower productivity. I hate it. I feel much better and more in control with my phone in grayscale mode and by following less accounts I don’t know. I have implemented time restraints of 30 minutes per day for my Instagram. I am inclined to reduce that to 15 minutes. I want to use the platforms to connect with my friends and that’s all. Share photos with my friends, not care about likes, and that’s ALL. All I want is an environment that facilitates that.

When I was on social media, it would suck up my time uncontrollably
Boo, 16, Brisbane, Australia
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Boo, 16, Brisbane, Australia
August 11, 2021
When I was on social media, it would suck up my time uncontrollably and before I knew it the day was up, I'd achieved nothing I'd wanted to, spent no time with family and just totally ignored the world around me. I was scared I was falling down a rabbithole away from reality, so it was time I took ahold of my life. I've now realised how trapped I was, and though it was a temporary decision at first, I made it permanent and now I'm free.

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.

I got addicted, always checking my phone, obsessed with keeping my streaks, worrying that someone needed my attention 24/7.

Dasani, 16, Phoenix, United States
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Dasani, 16, Phoenix, United States
February 24, 2021

There's been real tension in my household lately, and social media has been my sort of coping mechanism. When I felt alone and hopeless, I could just scroll through instagram and not feel like crying anymore. I've never been allowed to go out much, so when I felt disconnected with my friends, I just spread my face across snapchat so I could talk to new people. I got addicted, always checking my phone, obsessed with keeping my streaks, worrying that someone needed my attention 24/7. I thought that was great to be needed, interested in, and meeting interesting people, until some of those people started asking things of me that I'm not comfortable with. Disconnected once again, I deleted snap and went back to my default scroll. Then I watched the social dilemma and really got to see that I wasn't the only one having these types of problems. I started to limit my screen time, schedule my days according to online school, pick up other hobbies I haven't done in a while like drawing, being part of the church choir, ect. I still don't have the best social life, but at least I'm spending my time alone productively.

my senior English class watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix and I had never felt so validated.
Madeline, 18, Lenexa, United States
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Madeline, 18, Lenexa, United States
August 16, 2021
Today, I still use Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube, but my real awakening to this issue began when I used to use TikTok. I downloaded it in the fall of 2019 as a joke because many of my friends were, and I remember at first thinking it was stupid because people had been saying it was a "worse version of vine" so I almost didn't download it. I wish I would have known how dangerous the algorithm was before using the app because it didn't take more than a week for the algorithm to be completely personalized to me. I can't say for sure but if I had to estimate I would say spent at least 5-10 hours a day, each day, even when I had only intended to look at my phone for 30 minutes. The TikTok algorithm stands out to me as way more addictive and violating than other social media platforms largely due to it's endless scroll, and the way the for you page is designed. (to show you videos based on any of your liked videos and interests, as opposed to platforms like Instagram and Facebook where you are only automatically shown content from accounts you follow) Though I tried to curve my usage by setting time limits in Settings and taking "social media breaks" for days or weeks, the only way I could actually fight my addiction to TikTok was to delete the app altogether at the beginning of this year. It was hard at first but now I just wish I would have done it sooner. Later this year, my senior English class watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix and I had never felt so validated. The documentary found words to explain an issue that I had always felt was there, but an issue I didn't fully understand. Ever since I had my first iPhone in 6th grade, I sensed that technology addiction was an issue among my generation, but I didn't see my friends around me feeling as worried as I was about how much time we all spent on our phones. Our screen usage was always seen as a joke and something we were surprised about, but something we felt was simply due to us being lazy. After watching the documentary in class, I became fascinated with this issue and I'm now a huge fan of Tristan Harris, the Center for Humane Technology, and "Your Undivided Attention". I would say my main concern now is how this issue specifically impacts Gen Z, a generation who hasn't grown up in a world without internet. Growing up on social media, this is all we know, and now we are at the age where we are transitioning from addicted teenagers to adults who will be more involved in our society and eventually bring the next generation into the world. We need tech to be designed in a more humane way soon, so that our current problems, or potential worse problems with our god-like technology, are not passed down to generations to come. We also need to spread the word and sound the alarm about this issue, not only to policy makers, executives in the tech industry, and parents, but mainly to the teens that these issues impact who can really resonate with this issue.
I truthfully had never felt more alone
Magpie, 17, Union, United States
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Magpie, 17, Union, United States
March 4, 2022
There was a time where I was in a really bad place mentally, and to cope with it I threw myself into the internet and social media. Looking back on that time period of my life I truthfully had never felt more alone. There were millions of people online that made me feel like a single drop of water in the entirety of the Pacific Ocean. It did nothing to help my depression and anxiety at the time, in fact it was making it worse by exaggerating the feelings of isolation and envy I felt.

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 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.

#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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