Inside the Social Media Trends among GC Students


Merritt Dismuke

Social media: the pinnacle of a virtual community. As of 2021, 79% of Americans have a social media profile. While the number of social media users will continue to increase, growth is expected to plateau. But in the era of COVID-19, social media usage increased significantly. The average annual growth rate from 2022 to 2025 is forecast at 3.9%.

“I used Instagram more in high school,” said Paige Munro, senior business management major. “But now I really only look at TikTok.”

TikTok (29%) recently surpassed Instagram (25%) as U.S. teens’ preferred social platform (both behind Snapchat). The introduction of China’s video-based app captivated American users instantly; short clips containing humor, tutorials, stories and more often leave users scrolling on TikTok for hours.

“I’ll sit there on my phone without realizing how much time has actually passed,” said Lauren Pearson, junior political science major. “But TikTok literally puts videos I want to see on my ‘For You Page.’”

TikTok uses a specific algorithm to generate content for its users’ ‘For You Page’ based on their ‘favoriting’ habits and search history. In 2020, President Donald Trump came down on the app, citing its invasion of privacy and disregard of cooperation with the U.S. government.

Nevertheless, GC students consider TikTok their favorite app to-date. Instagram, once being the most popular, has overall decreased engagement by GC students. Current students who grew up in the age of Instagram are, in fact, “over it.”

“There’s been a trend where people I follow are posting more naturally now,” Munro said. “It used to be over edited selfies and a bunch of filters.”

COVID-19 had many look at the facts: why focus on editing the perfect picture when you can use your voice to promote change instead? Many are tired of the ‘fakeness’ Instagram users often promote: distorted body image, heavily applied filters and influencer-based marketing. Although Instagram is still widely used by GC students, TikTok is taking the reins when it comes to social media usage.

As for Snapchat, the percentage of U.S. users (15-25 year-olds) in the U.S. is 48%. Those aged 26-35 decrease the usage to 30%. As GC college students get older, social media usage declines overall. Many cherish in-person interaction as COVID-19 guidelines lessen, focus more on the present and pursue careers that diminish scrolling opportunities.

“I never use Snapchat anymore,” said Noah Hutchison, senior business management major. “The only people I really see use it are younger.”

The biggest trend within Snapchat is creating a ‘private story,’ allowing users to select followers authorized to view. The best way to put it: the public story is often PG whereas the private story is often PG-13.

As for Twitter, 80% of users are affluent millennials. Twitter is the preferred social network for news consumption. Year after year, the app increases its usage. But many GC students decline to mention it as one of their favorite social media platforms. Instead, Reddit overshadows tweeting.

“You can find anything on Reddit,” Hutchison said. “You type in one thing and tons of opinions are at your disposal.”

Social media usage continues to grow; but in the era of COVID-19, many GC students realize social media is not all that it seems and tend to focus on the present. Overall, TikTok remains the champion among all platforms, natural/unedited posts are heavily embraced and Reddit is on the rise.