In an effort to best understand how young adults are using social media, the Organization for Social Media Safety maintains a Student Advisory Council composed of high school and college students from across the country.  Each month one of our Student Advisors contributes an article with his or her perspective on social media safety.

Social media is more than just posting and liking a picture or comment.  Frequent use can truly change personality and behaviors. I have been saddened to see this first-hand with a number of my friends.  One close friend, in particular, changed significantly when she was exposed to social media.

Friends since birth, we grew up on the same block and considered each other sisters. Around the age of fourteen, my friend got the new and trendy social media application, Instagram. Her desire to stay up to date with the trends then led to her signing onto Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, and soon thereafter every other account around.

Quickly, she developed an obvious addiction.  When our families met up to hang out, she was always on her phone. Her only focus was checking every account. She wanted to see how many likes a post got or to see what new Snapchat stories arrived. The habit became so bad that I didn’t even know how to socialize with her because she barely looked up from her phone.

Today, now 20 years old, with over 24,000 followers, she is a “Public Figure” on Instagram frequently posting pictures of herself in bathing suits that she gets paid to wear. She does not know most of the people that follow her since her account is public to anyone on Instagram – meaning anyone can follow her without requesting her permission.

Since she wanted to make more money by using social media, she also got a Live Me account where anyone can watch you stream live video. She was making around $1,000 a month while doing her makeup, walking around her house, and doing her everyday routine.  I was concerned watching her reveal so much personal information to complete strangers, information including where she lived and what her daily activities were.

When she first started with Live Me, she was about to graduate from the Girl Scouts, only needing to complete one last project.  Her mom even promised her that she would pay for her car payments if she finished the project.  But, because of her focus with Live Me and the money she was making, she failed to complete it.

My friend is incredibly smart.  She excelled throughout middle and high school. If she had wanted, she could have gotten into any college she chose. Unfortunately, once she got obsessed with social media, she did not feel the need to go to college.  And, now she still lives with her parents at the age of 20.

I care deeply for my friend.  She is an amazing person, and I am so saddened that, since social media entered her life, I can see her unhappiness.  Social media is doing the same to many of my other friends and classmates.  Clearly, not every teen reacts to social media this way.  But, for too many of us, it is difficult to say no, limit ourselves, and put down the phone. I do not think it is our fault.  We just do not have the experience to know better, and we need some guidance.

Madison P. is a member of the Organization for Social Media Safety Student Advisory Council.