The rise of social media has brought new and instantaneous ways for drug dealers to reach a much wider audience and a younger age group. Pictures glamorizing drugs and alcohol are common and that is what our children and teens are seeing every day. There has always been the problem of middle school and high school-aged kids experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but now that experimenting is being shared with a much wider audience. These kids are blasted with images of partying every day.
There are accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, the list goes on and on- specifically about doing and dealing drugs. There is more accessibility to pills, booze, and illicit drugs than ever before. In terms of dealing, so many of these accounts can be anonymous and extremely hard to track. Celebrities and popular influencers post pictures of themselves getting high and drinking all the time. This influences the kids and teens following these accounts. It promotes the idea that behaviors like binge drinking are normal. This kind of content only glamorizes these ideas that partying is a part of being “cool”. Seeing your favorite celebrity drink a bottle of lean, which is a combination of prescription-strength cough medicine, soft drinks, and hard, fruit-flavored candy, makes it seem like much less dangerous.
Constantly seeing images of famous people, friends, or even family drinking or getting high normalizes the idea that drugs and drinking are “cool”. A 2011 survey conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that teenagers who regularly use popular social media outlets, like Facebook or Instagram were more likely to drink, use drugs, and buy tobacco than adolescents who either did not use social media or used it less. That study asked the teens how often they used social media. 70% of them said they use social media daily. That was 9 years ago. These platforms have grown so rapidly since then. In 9 years, that number grew to about 92% of teens reporting they check social media daily.
Social media not only glamorizes drugs, but it puts so much more pressure on kids and teens to want to be what the internet has perpetuated as “perfect”. Viewing images of photoshopped “perfection” have been particularly problematic for mental health. Some kids and teens that are more susceptible to mental health issues, seeing these images over and over can develop an eating disorder, for example, because they see “perfection”. Body image problems have skyrocketed.
These platforms are associated with kids and teens developing depression and anxiety disorders. Even if they know these images are altered and manipulated, they can still affect self-esteem and insecurity. Cyberbullying has become an issue for a lot of teens. It has even driven kids to commit suicide. An unflattering or inappropriate picture can spread across a high school in one day, Rumors are spread faster affecting the victim that much worse. Cyberbullying has exploded and that is a real issue facing our kids today.
Social media is the catalyst for many mental health problems that can lead to substance abuse. Peer pressure has been common among teenagers, but on social media, it’s intensified because it’s something that can be accessed 24/7. This has created an easily accessible way to buy drugs. They do not have to go into a dark alleyway to buy drugs anymore. They can just text or message someone and get whatever they want. Addiction rates have been on the rise for a long time, but now with the constant availability of drugs and alcohol, those numbers will keep rising.
The Dark Web
The Dark Web is a network of untraceable online activity and websites on the internet. They cannot be found using search engines, like Google, and to access them you need to use specific software, certain configurations, or have authorization. They are used by lots of different people to keep their web activity hidden. The Dark Web provides dealers a way to move higher quantities of drugs over borders.
Although we are social creatures and social media can help us connect with other people, it does not replace human-to-human interaction. Social media itself has become an addiction. Constant notifications and alerts keep you on your phone or tablet. There are benefits to social media, like the ability to meet people that you never would without it. Meeting other people in other countries is an amazing part of social media.
It has created a way for us to connect with others and new ways to learn about other cultures. For how amazing that can be, there is a dark side to constant content. You hear that alert and almost immediately you reach for your phone. There has to be a balance between real life and life on the internet. Not all platforms are bad, it is the way we use and view them.