“Social media puts pressure on young women” – Shannen Seaby

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Humanity Hallows Issue 5 Out Now
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By Shannen Seaby

At school we were taught how to read, how to write and how to count. We were taught the history of the world and geographical issues but no one ever took the time to teach us about the effects of social media. As a 22-year-old female studying at university, I would have hugely benefited from some social media awareness. The fact that social media back then was just starting to blow up would have been the perfect opportunity for schools to address the negative influences it could have on young people’s lives. Now, almost 10 years later, social media has evolved into one of the greatest communication sources of our time and there is no doubt that the presence of the internet has changed the manner in which we all interact and engage with one another. This is all well and good but it also raises an important question: how much do we really think social media effects and influences the younger generation today?

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that social media is a great tool and I could list the countless number of positives that have affected the world we live in today. However, although social media has become something huge for our generation, unfortunately so have a lot of unspoken negatives. An important one being, how certain ways of life have just become the ‘norm’.

I’m going to put it out there and say that, if you’re a girl aged between 13 and 25, you are more than likely going to feel insecure, unsure of yourself and have the least amount of self-confidence you ever will in your lifetime. The saddest part about it is that every day we see what is believed to be the ‘perfect’ girl: photos that are plastered all over Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote the latest ‘Bikini Summer Body’ or fitness plans. Photos that more than often have been photo-shopped but still immediately make our minds go into panic mode. We vigorously start comparing ourselves, our bodies, our faces, to those ‘perfect’ girls and begin to ask why don’t we look like that and where exactly we are going wrong? I guess the truth here is that everyone is going to have their own insecurities and body features that they would like to change but we should always remember that it is how we choose to embody our insecurities and the steps that we should take to stop comparing how we look to anyone else.

When you ask young girls what their biggest insecurity is, almost all of them say “not being enough”. Whether this is being not pretty enough, not smart enough or not talented enough. They do not feel enough. Enough for who? Themselves or other people? I asked 20 young girls between the ages of 14 and 22 if they ever compare themselves to other girls of a similar age on social media platforms and worryingly 18 out of 20 said that they do. Everyday.

This harrowing fact leads me onto how social media encourages eating disorders in young girls. Family members often make the mistake of telling us “You’ve filled out” or “A bit of weight makes you look really well”, but ultimately it isn’t want we want to hear. This also goes for photos and comments made on social media, they could be harmless and meant positively, yet why do they make us feel horrendous about our appearance.

Courtney Howard, B.A., Director of Operations & Business Development at Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction wrote a really interesting article on eating disorders and social media which looked at a 2011 study from the University of Haifa which examined 248 young women from the ages of 12 to 19 and found that more exposure to social media contributed to higher rates of eating disorders and related concerns. Specifically, the more time these young women spent on Facebook, the more likely they were to struggle with “…bulimia, anorexia, physical dissatisfaction, negative physical self-image, negative approach to eating and more of an urge to be on a weight-loss diet”. These facts and statistics are just one of thousands that contribute to how important raising awareness of social media is to young girls.

Social media is always full of the best parts of people’s lives, which is something we have to continuously keep in our minds. The reality of this is that no one is going to post a photo to Instagram looking incredibly sad, whilst quoting all of the negative things that have happened to them that day. It just isn’t what social media is about or tends to be used for. Something worth remembering is that everyone is unique. We have different bodies, different lives and different minds. What would be the fun in everyone looking exactly the same, or what we think everybody should look like. Yet still, instead of feeling inspired by a ‘body goals’ post, we are feeling put down and insecure. However, what I have found is that obsessing over other people’s photographs and how they look is immensely unhealthy and can have huge influences and impacts on your whole life. There is a huge amount of pressure on young girls these days to look and be a certain way and social media just heightens it but remember, this is not reality.

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