Social media’s influence taking over teenagers

Jayden Dewayne Johnson, News Editor

The internet has become a tool for everyday use and can provide data and ideas on a consistent basis and can even provide job opportunities as well as platforms for users to upload their own content for others to enjoy and watch.
Social media is a major factor to this, as tens of millions of people can essentially build their own platform to allow thousands to even hundreds of thousands of others to interact with and watch.
TikTok is the world’s leading social media platform, where users can create content and share it with others worldwide. It has quickly become one of the largest presences on social media and it has been dominant for the past few months, particularly during the pandemic, where a few have built up their profile to over a million followers and counting.
In recent months though, according to Tiktok stats, a disturbing growth in the ‘follower trend’ – the act of users following the acts of bigger influences and trying to grow their exposure – has exponentially affected the community around them.
“Social media is a breeding ground for drama and debates because nobody has to face anyone as they can hide behind a screen,” Tommy Doyle, senior, said.
Users on every social media platform – Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not just TikTok itself – are doing more and more to gain validity and views. The better engagement, the more people are willing to do to boost their ‘influence’ on platforms.
The ‘Devious Lick’ trend, a trend where students would essentially top one another to see what materials they could steal from schools, is a prime example of this.
“As a teenager in today’s world, you want to be accepted by other people,” sophomore Bella Torres said. “By participating in trends and challenges – no matter what they are – you feel socially accepted.”
The trend, which started Sept. 1, began with a user in a video of himself with a box of masks, which he stated he had stolen from school. Since then, users began stealing more and more from schools, the views climbing exponentially. Essentially, the bigger and harder of an item to steal, the higher views they would receive as a result, since those online would be baffled that someone managed to pull it off.
Some schools have lost thousands of dollars because of this trend.
“I know some buildings had more problems than others. I have no idea what the total cost to the district was,” Matt Ambrose, assistant principal said.
While some used this trend to attack the trend itself – one video showing a student imitating himself going to jail due to participating in the trend – others would do their best to top the rest for the most absurd, most insane objects to steal.
One video showed the aftermath of a devious lick – a bathroom completely destroyed, stalls shredded, urinals torn from the walls, sinks smashed – and another showed a student showing off a locker he managed to bring home.
“While some of the videos posted under the trend were funny, most were not okay. Stealing and vandalism are never okay, even for a quick laugh,” Anthony Tamayo, sophomore, said.
One of the most shocking videos was of a user who managed to bring a ‘smart board’ home, which is not only incredibly large but can be worth several thousand dollars.
“The devious lick trend was not morally okay,” Torres said. “At first it was funny, then when people began to destroy property then it just became reckless and got quickly out of control.”
Not only is the trend a problem, but the inevitable fact that this will likely continue, no matter how much is done to prevent it.
“I can’t say for sure why students are participating in these trends, but my hope is that they will see that it is not worth it and stop,” Ambrose said.
As long as the trend is continued and kept alive by big influential users on the platform, much less social media itself, others will feel obligated to participate and try to get to the top of the scale – the bigger, the better.
“People want to be seen as ‘cool’ and ‘popular’,” Tamayo said.
The impulse to contribute to a trend or challenge or even join the crowd as a follower is very strong.
“People aren’t held accountable for what they do and say,” Doyle said. “I feel that we as a generation have become very impressionable to what we see on the online world, and we should take responsibility for our actions because it makes us as a generation seem like we don’t know right from wrong, we just do.”