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How to Use Social Media, According to Teen Girls

Reminders to do your homework. DMs in every app. Multiple group chats explode. All of these notifications can feel endless and overwhelming. Niki Shiva, 17, of Hayward, California, said she set her phone so that it “won’t bother everyone but mom” to ease her fears. Niki explained that she often obsesses over whether someone has texted her, so she tries to minimize the temptation to constantly check her phone. She also said she removed her messaging app from her home screen — it’s now hidden in a folder in her app library — “so I didn’t have to pay attention to the number of notifications.”

Several of the teens we spoke to said that, when possible, they remove accounts from their social media feeds that harm their self-esteem. (Experts agree this is good practice.) “Your attention is power,” said Janine Edmunds, 14, of South Jamaica, Queens. “On TikTok you can click ‘not interested’ on a video. Or block people you don’t like. It’s not a shady thing, it’s just that I don’t want you around.”

Kamryn Nutzel, 16, of New Orleans, noticed that the influencers she unfollowed made her feel guilty, and tries to snap out of it when she feels her FOMO creeping in — by taking a bath, wearing a face mask or simply going to bed early. “If I get into the cycle of comparing myself, I will Just unfollow the person,” she said. Sometimes she deletes her apps for a day or two until she feels better.

According to the Pew Research Center, four out of five teenagers in the United States said what they see on social media makes them feel more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives. Here’s how Ella Moyer, 17, of Scottsdale, Arizona, uses Instagram: “It’s a memory box for You” she said, a highlight filled with fun moments to share with friends and family, like photos from her prom night. “Every time I open my phone, I don’t see perfect celebrities,” she said. “I only see my friends.”

Studies have shown that spending more time outdoors, even just two hours a week, can make us healthier and happier. Rosalina Pinkhasova, 14, spent a lot of time this summer in the new inflatable pool her family built in their backyard in Fresh Meadows, Queens. “Sometimes I like to turn on an alarm to tell me when to stop talking on the phone,” she said.