Tik Tok: How much time on social media is too much?


Social media and homework.

PASADENA, CA– It’s 3pm on a Thursday. You close your laptop after your last zoom call of the day and breathe a deep sigh of relief because you have the rest of the afternoon all to yourself. Even better, tomorrow is Friday, meaning one day closer to the weekend. But then, dread sinks in as you look at your planner and see five assignments due tomorrow. You think to yourself, I have a whole seven hours to get this done. Let me take a quick break from school and see what’s happening on Tik Tok, then I’ll get to my work. Scrolling. Scrolling. Scrolling. Ding. Buzz. Scrolling. Scrolling. I should really start my precalculus homework, but it’s not due for another 6 hours, I have time. When you put your phone down to start your homework, the clock reads 8pm. 

The creators of social media are often some of their biggest critics as shown in the recent Netflix documentary, “The Social Dilemma”, directed by Jeff Orlowski. The 90-minute film interviews tech leaders at companies such as Google and Pinterest and uncovers the truth behind social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It reveals the tactics teams of people use to keep users online for longer periods of time. These include the slot machine effect of a constantly updating feed, notifications, auto-complete responses, and curated feeds that cater to an individual’s interests. 

These features often make it easier to get manipulated into spending hours on an app without even realizing how much time has flown by. Before you know it, the time may be 10pm and you have not started working on that presentation you were meaning to finish before dinnertime. This is especially harmful for teens who need to find a balance between staying connected and using time wisely. 

“I definitely think I do [spend too much time on social media]. I think it’s because I get sucked into a hole with social media. I’m just on it and I just can’t stop using it because, for me, it’s really entertaining and my main form of entertainment,” said Keala Sunada ‘21. 

Social media is one of the most widely used forms of the internet, especially among teens. Tik Tok, a recent news sensation, has taken the US by storm with 60% of teens in America using the app to watch an endless supply of minute-long videos. Instagram leads in popularity, being used by 85% of American teens and Snapchat follows close behind with usage by 82% of American teens.

This raises the question of when social media becomes too distracting for America’s youth. Granted that these platforms open up communication, entertainment, and news to a wider range of audiences, they are also great vessels for time wastage that are rapidly sweeping through the nation. 

A recent poll of 51 Mayfield students shows that, unlike the national statistics, popularity of the three platforms mentioned above is almost evenly distributed among Mayfield cubs. Tik Tok is in the lead with 35.3% of respondents saying it is their most used social media app. 

Results from social media poll showing the most popular social media platforms among Mayfield students.

“I feel like the fact that it’s kind of endless in the explore page, the TikTok page, and the homepage makes it really hard to stop. Sometimes I’ll have gone through my homepage and then I’ll refresh just to see if anything has happened,” said Le Anh Metzger ‘22 who primarily uses social media to keep in touch with friends and build her bullet-journaling account

But not all time spent on social media is necessarily a waste, as taking breaks from work to enjoy entertainment is often a good way to rest.  It is important to remember that first and foremost, social media is meant to be a means of communication that helps people keep in touch with others across the globe, stay up-to-date with current events, and promote their businesses. 

“I remember when Black Lives Matter was really at its peak I was getting most of my information from social media and from the people posting about it, which was really great because if it wasn’t for that I would just be really clueless,” said Ella Klingerman ‘24. 

So what exactly constitutes time wasted? At what point do we cross the line of important communication, leisure time, entertainment into the realm of unproductive scrolling for hours, days, and weeks? 

Klingerman says that going on social media as a hiatus from doing work is beneficial to keep yourself updated on current events. But she says the line of wasting time is crossed when other assignments and tasks should be completed first. For example, being on social media when guests are over or there is an opportunity to spend quality time with others is not the best use of time. 

Of the 51 Mayfield students polled, 25.5% say their screen time for social media is 1-2 hours per day and 19.6% say they spend 5 hours or more on social media every day. Two percent of respondents say that their screen time depends on the amount of homework they have each night. 

Results from social media poll showing average social media screen time for Mayfield students.

Interestingly, 26 respondents said they feel as though they spend too much time on social media and 12 respondents say they do not feel as though they spend too much time on social media. 10 respondents say it depends on the day or they only sometimes feel as though they are using social media too much. Of the 19.6% of respondents (10) who said their average daily social media screen time was 5 or more hours, 7 said they felt as though they spent too much time on social media platforms. 

Senior Keala Sunada expressed similar sentiments to her fellow cubs about social media’s positive and negative effects as well as using social media to stay connected with friends and current events. 

“I think the best thing about social media is that it keeps you connected to your friends especially now during quarantine because you can’t go out to see them and it’s also a good way to meet new people. I’d say the worst part is the negative, toxic atmosphere especially surrounding celebrities and beauty standards,” said Sunada. 

Ultimately, social media is a great tool that can be used for both good and bad and like all things, should be used with caution and moderation.