Teens on Social Media: Save the Drama for Your Mama

Pew Research Center found that 45 percent of those aged 13 through 17 are overwhelmed

44 percent of teens sometimes or often unfriend or unfollow others on social media stock-eye/iStock
Headshot of David Cohen

While being connected is the norm for teens, they also find the online environment to be “hostile and drama-filled,” according to a new survey of U.S. teens aged 13 through 17 by Pew Research Center.

About 45 percent of the teens surveyed by Pew said they feel overwhelmed by all of the drama they encounter on social media, with 15 percent saying they feel this way “a lot.”

Pew found that 44 percent of teens sometimes or often unfriend or unfollow others on social media, with 78 percent of that group saying they did so because those people created too much drama.

Pew Research Center

Pew Research Center

Other findings in Pew’s new Teens’ Social Media Habits and Experiences report include:

  • 97 percent of teens use at least one of these platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, Tumblr and Reddit.
  • 81 percent of teens say social media makes them feel more connected to what’s happening in their friends’ lives, but 43 percent feel pressure to only post content that makes them look good to others.
  • 69 percent of respondents said social networking sites enable them to interact with people from diverse backgrounds, while 67 percent said they find different points of view and 66 percent show support for causes or issues.
  • 46 percent of respondents said they sometimes organize their social media feeds to see only certain types of content, while 15 percent do it often and 29 percent never do so.
  • Only 37 percent of respondents believe social media helps people their age find trustworthy information, and just 7 percent feel that social networking sites help “a lot” in that respect.
  • 49 percent of teens post about their accomplishments on social media, but religious and political beliefs are taboo, with roughly one out of 10 posting about them.
  • 44 percent of respondents post about their families, while 34 percent discuss their emotions and feelings and 22 percent talk about their dating lives.
  • 25 percent of teens said they rarely post selfies on social media, and 26 percent said they never do so.
  • 45 percent sometimes or often post selfies on social networks (16 percent often).
  • Girls (six out of 10) are more likely than boys (30 percent) to post selfies.
  • Two-thirds of African-American teens and 51 percent of Hispanic teens regularly share selfies via social media, versus just 39 percent of whites.
  • 46 percent of teens sometimes spend time in online groups or forums. Boys were roughly twice as likely as girls to visit online groups about hobbies (54 percent versus 29 percent) or sports (36 percent versus 19 percent), while the reverse is true for fashion (34 percent of girls compared with 18 percent of boys), health and wellness (20 percent versus 10 percent) and groups oriented toward people with specific characteristics, such as LGBT or people of color (18 percent versus 6 percent).
  • 74 percent of respondents who participate in online communities say those groups expose them to new types of people, while 68 percent said they play a role in making them feel more accepted, 65 percent in helping them figure out how to feel about important issues and 55 percent in helping them get through tough times.
  • 50 percent of respondents post things only their closest friends would understand, while 42 percent post updates on where they are or what they’re doing, 41 percent share videos and 29 percent regularly post things they want to see go viral.
  • African-American teens (41 percent) are more likely than white teens (25 percent) to say they at least sometimes post things they want to go viral.
  • Teens were presented with four pairs of words and asked to choose the sentiment that most closely matches how they feel when using social media, and the results were: Social media made them feel included (71 percent) versus excluded (25 percent); confident (69 percent) rather than insecure (26 percent); authentic (64 percent) rather than fake (33 percent); and outgoing (61 percent) versus reserved (34 percent).
  • Six out of 10 respondents spend time online with their friends every day or almost every day, while just 24 percent do so in person. The main reason given for the low number in the latter is having too many other obligations (41 percent).

david.cohen@adweek.com David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.