Social media enters S&R scene

Students report online impact on real-life relationships


Madera Longstreet-Lipson, On Campus Editor

“Most of social media is a false narrative.”

“[Social media] gives me more knowledge of [sex and relationships] and I also get to see more of others’ relationships.”

“I don’t really care about social media that much.”

These three opinions on social media’s impact on sex and relationships all appeared in responses to The Vanguard’s recent survey. No matter the opinion on it, the majority of students agreed social media impacts how they think about sex and relationships.

Over the last 10 years, the presence of social media in teens’ lives has grown. According to a study done by Pew Research Center in 2018, 72% of U.S. teens use Instagram, 69% use Snapchat, and 85% use YouTube.

According to The Vanguard’s recent survey, 27% of students have met a romantic or sexual partner online and over 70% believe sex impacts how they think about sex and relationships.

“A lot of social media is the high peaks of life, and when you view these ‘perfect’ couples on social media, it makes you yearn for the things you don’t have,” a 9th grade respondent said.

This yearning can lead to poor choices in high school, Briyana Targete ’24 said.

“Social media idealizes sex and relationships and makes people think it’s some great thing that they should start when they are young, but it’s not healthy to get into serious sexual relationships when you’re young,” she said.

Social media pressures people to engage in romantic relationships, Gemma Gifford ’22 said.

“A lot of people get into relationships just so they can post on their Instagram so that everyone who’s not in a relationship looks at the post and thinks to themselves ‘Oh, god, I wish I was as cool and likeable and hot as these people who are dating each other.’”

Gemma said she believes it’s more important to have intimacy and personal connections in relationships rather than presences on social media.

“Social media places more of an emphasis on how other people view your relationship rather than the real important part: the two people in the relationship,” she said.

Jayline Figueroa ’23, who has been in an online relationship for four months, said her virtual relationship has pros and cons but that trust is what keeps it going.

“A big negative is obviously not being able to see each other,” she said. “I will say, though, without the physical part of a relationship, we connect a lot more emotionally.”

Upper School (US) Counselor Doug Neuman said while social media can spark relationships and connections, it can also have negative impacts due to the ease of posting.

“Social media has certainly changed the landscape, given that so much communication and so many connections happen over social media,” he said. “It’s easier to say something or post something when you don’t have to interact with that person face to face, which can often lead to miscommunication or worse in the area of relationships as well as friendships.”

Social media can provide communication and community around sex and relationships that they may not otherwise have, Sherry Ren ’24 said.

“Social media has offered information regarding discovering your sexuality and learning about your identity,” she said. “I learned most of what I know about sex and relationships through social media platforms.”

Additionally, social media can create supportive spaces for relationships, Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist Candie Sanderson, who teaches a section of the school’s Sexuality and Relationships (S&R) program, said.

“While it’s difficult to have all these possible social interactions in your backpocket, it can also create supportive spaces for people with marginalized identities,” she said. “For example, if you’re someone who identifies as LGBTQ+, and your community is not welcoming, there may be a space for you on some social media communities to connect with others.”