Signs Social Media Is Ruining Teen Friendships

teen girls taking a selfie

dolgachov / iStockphoto

When it comes to social media, there are a number of positive aspects. For instance, teens can keep up with friends who move away and make connections with others who have similar interests. They can even leverage social media to build a positive online reputation — one that colleges and prospective employers find impressive.

But there are some negative aspects of social media. Aside from cyberbullying, oversharing and sexting issues, social media also can put negative pressure on friendships, especially when one friend is very active about posting pictures, status updates and opinions that hurt others. Here are four ways to tell if social media is hurting your teen’s friendships.

Your Teen Feels Left Out

When a friend posts pictures of parties, coffee dates and other social events that your child was not invited to, this can cause a lot of hurt and pain. Not only does your child feel left out, but she also may wonder why she wasn’t included.

Sometimes teens post pictures of these events without even thinking that someone else might be hurt by them. Remind your teen that it is normal to not be invited to everything. It’s nothing personal, and if she was left out it doesn’t necessarily mean that her friend was being mean. Before social media, teens would have heard after the fact and thought nothing about it. Now that parties are “announced to the world” on social media, it can cause teens to feel left out when they shouldn’t.

Keep in mind though that sometimes teens are intentionally being mean when they post pictures of a party that only a select few were invited to. This is particularly common among cliques and mean girls. If this is happening frequently, you may want to talk to your teen about finding new friends.

Staying off of social media when a teen has nothing planned for the weekend is a good idea. Seeing happy faces that look like they are having a great time is hard for a teen that is bored at home.

Your Teen’s Disagreements Are Public

If your teen’s friend regularly posts about the disagreements they have or subtweets mean comments, this is not a healthy friendship. Not only is this a violation of trust, but airing dirty laundry online only gives a small picture of what really happened. Remind your teen that good friends do not post things like this. Instead, this is the type of behavior that fake friends and frenemies engage in.

Remind your teen that she should not post her side of the story online. Instead, encourage her to call her friend and work out the disagreement. Let her know that being respectful to her friend is important and that is best handled with a conversation.

Also, discourage her from texting or using direct messaging. The comments she makes can not only be taken out of context but also can be copied and pasted if the friend is feeling vindictive.

Your Teen Would Rather Communicate Online

Most teens today would prefer to text their friends rather than have a conversation. Additionally, they are less likely to spend time together if they can communicate online. Remind your teen that nothing replaces face-to-face contact with a friend.

What’s more, some friends prefer in-person conversations. Too much time communicating online does not create a healthy friendship. Encourage your teen to take time for her friends, to reach out and spend time together.

Ideally, your teen should vary her methods of communication. While texting, liking posts, and messaging are useful, make sure your teen is also putting some effort into her friendships.

Your Teen’s Friends Post Inappropriate Content

If your teen has a friend that posts offensive comments, engages in rumors and gossip or is making strange comments online, this can put a strain on the friendship. Be sure your teen knows that she should never like or comment on a friend’s inappropriate content.

Instead, encourage your teen to gently remind her friend that these types of posts can ruin her online reputation. What’s more, your teen should be honest about how the posts make her feel. If the friend continues to post inappropriate material, remind your teen that because of her friendship with this person, her friend’s posts also reflect on her.

Challenge her to think about whether or not this friend is the type of person she wants to spend a lot of time with. If they do not have the same values, then eventually the friendship will become strained. Additionally, this friend may even engage in peer pressure. So be sure your child is aware of the pitfalls.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Uhls YT, Ellison NB, Subrahmanyam K. Benefits and Costs of Social Media in Adolescence. Pediatrics. 2017;140(Suppl 2):S67-S70. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-1758E

  2. Primack BA, Shensa A, Sidani JE, et al. Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.SAm J Prev Med. 2017;53(1):1–8. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2017.01.010

  3. Centifanti LC, Fanti KA, Thomson ND, Demetriou V, Anastassiou-Hadjicharalambous X. Types of Relational Aggression in Girls Are Differentiated by Callous-Unemotional Traits, Peers and Parental OvercontrolBehav Sci (Basel). 2015;5(4):518–536. doi:10.3390/bs5040518

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon, CLC is a published author, certified professional life coach, and bullying prevention expert.