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Congratulations to our 2022 essay winner...


University of California, Berkeley

Major: Economics and Data Science

Huntington Beach High School, Class of 2022


2022 Writing Prompt:

"There is considerable research on the relationship of social media and the mental health of teenagers. Think about ways you engage on social media.  Describe the benefits and costs that social media has on your life and mental health."

Winning essay:

Ding! Click! Whoosh! In a matter of seconds, I am able to chat away with a friend over text or Facetime, “like” a classmate’s photo on Instagram, and send a funny filterized video of myself looking like a unicorn to my cousin over Snapchat. And that doesn’t touch the tip of what other capabilities I, alongside many others, can achieve with the increasingly powerful usage of social media.

For the longest time ever, my parents lectured me on the dangers of social media and the Internet. After all, the creation of the online world held capabilities of exposing so much information in just a click of a mouse or the tap of a finger. I always listened to them, but took it with a grain of salt. It was not until high school when I became more active on social platforms, and downloaded my first form of social media, that I truly realized there were implications to what I first believed was all sunshine and rainbows. There was so much beneath the surface of social media.

Similar to how eating desserts would be, having too much of something could result in a “stomachache.” I would start to spend what I thought was minutes of scrolling, but actually hours instead of scrolling on apps such as Instagram or Tiktok. The little beep of a text message or notification somehow always distracted me from my duties as a student or even as a person in general. For some reason, the lit up screen would ignite something within me, almost begging me to come pick up the phone and get sucked in for hours. I never came to realize that the many hours of screen time that I have racked up on my phone, could have been used for something maybe a lot more rewarding and fulfilling. Instead of just sitting in bed and continuously looking through the phone, I could be spending that time with my parents when they get off of work, or with my two younger brothers whom I would be leaving behind in a couple of months when I go to college.

The compulsive behavior that I have manifested through social media, increased as excessive social media utilization impinged on my self esteem. People constantly posted themselves going on extravagant vacations or buying luxurious material goods. They were able to hang out with friends, go shopping, attend concerts, and do all sorts of things I wish I would be able to do. Instead, I stayed at home to study and attended my other school-related extracurriculars. The constant smoke and mirrors of social media clouded my judgment and I soon began unraveling into a hole of low self esteem and jealousy. The unhealthy comparing of myself with others led me to believe that I was inferior to others, socially and financially. However the thing is, as a user on social media, you never truly get to see what goes on in the background of someone’s life. False impressions are easy to create to misrepresent the situation. Social media had a great way of attesting superficial characteristics and creating an unhealthy, toxic competitive environment.

After taking some time off of social media, I soon recognized that social media should be treated like fire. The user must understand that it is so powerful and may cause damage, yet also comprehend that it can be an incredibly useful resource. I have been able to talk to my relatives in Asia, reach out to my friends who are studying abroad in London, and also keep updated on many school-related resources and events. Despite that, social media has also helped me dive into my interests. After watching tons of videos on video platform websites, I began to learn how to creatively showcase my interests as well. Through observing so many others, I began possessing a little hobby of editing clips of film with music and audio to share online. Something about being able to translate my thoughts into videos and screenplay, made me feel incredibly intrigued. As someone who has been playing the piano since the age of 5, I grew up loving music. And so, I began focusing on creating videos filled with piano related music in order to share my talents with people online. After finding out I had a heart condition in the middle of high school, I even created a food Instagram with a mission to cook up healthy food recipes and to find yummy local restaurants to eat at! Through all this, I realized that social media is able to foster interests, and connect people with other like-minded interests. If used in the correct way, it can create healthy communities where information can be spread in such a rewarding way. Social media is such a diverse and complex thing. The way people interact digitally can seriously impact a persons’ mental health. I’m grateful to have experienced both sides of social media and will most definitely strive to keep my continuing relationship with social media in a balance.

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