OK, I know that social media’s impact is analysed day in and day out literally inside and out by the private and public sphere. However, this is a pertinent question since it is affecting young people. Today’s generation seem to be more than ever sucked into a social media frenzy; gone are the days of chatting online to friends on MSN after school or using BBM. Even then, parents would worry about the possibilities of online grooming and cyber-bullying, however this problem has been knocked out of the park by Instagram and Snapchat.
Who else has gone on Instagram and seen a very attractive person, who looks about 20 only to discover moments later that they are only fourteen or fifteen years old? I think we can all agree that this has happened to us at some stage or another. However, isn’t this really worrying? According to an article published by Parliament, ‘the Education Policy Institute reports that 95% of UK 15 year olds use social media before or after school, and half of 9–16 year olds used smart-phones on a daily basis’.
“Persistent exposure to the social media bubble is causing children to feel unworthy, depressed and not good enough for society’s portrayal of perfection”
Understandably, today’s youth will develop and grow with technology’s advancements. However, tweens and teens are aspiring to be like the ‘role-models’ they see not only on TV, but sprawled across their Instagram pages. Persistent exposure to the social media bubble is causing children to feel unworthy, depressed and not good enough for society’s portrayal of perfection. So, when we see these pictures of young fourteen-year-old girls covered with makeup and wearing revealing outfits, we really need to question how social media is hindering their impressionable growing years.
Although Snapchat does not appear to be as damaging to teens as Instagram, this ‘selfie’ culture is encouraging people to become self-obsessed. For example, my friend’s fourteen-year-old sister is persistently on her phone, taking photos. When she was grounded and had her phone taken away from her for three weeks, she mentioned that she ‘got so bored, that [she] read a book’. I personally found that really sad. Instead of focusing on improving ourselves from the inside, kids and adults alike are putting their precious time and energy into proving their happiness to the outside world. Comparing ourselves to others is ultimately the result – and this is what I believe to be the most damaging effect on social media users of all ages.
I think it says a lot that the explosion in mental health issues in recent years is aligned with frequent social media exposure. For example, in 2015 the Danish Happiness Research Institutes split 1,095 Facebook users into two groups; for the duration of a week, one group could continue usual access, whilst the other were forced to quit. And which group were found to be happier? The ones who took the break from the networking site. In fact, The Guardian reports that a staggering 55% ‘felt less stressed’. The participants involved were aged between 16 and 76, so taking this figure into account, how must people from the age of sixteen and below feel?
“I would be lying to you if I said that I have never taken a selfie or a photo and posted it online. However, what I want to convey is that this portrayal of myself is me at my ‘best’ – it is not symbolic of me all the time”
Of course, social media is not entirely negative and it is now beginning to serve as a platform for supporting and raising awareness about numerous issues. However, the flip side of social media’s face is one that has the ability to bruise and damage self-esteem. And yes, I would be lying to you if I said that I have never taken a selfie or a photo and posted it online. However, what I want to convey is that this portrayal of myself is me at my ‘best’ – it is not symbolic of me all the time. In fact, more times than not, I’m in my pyjamas, hair up, no makeup on and binge-watching Nashville. Rarely does anyone post a picture that symbolises a negative feeling or moment. I feel that people lose sight of this, especially young people who are living and breathing this social media world.