Social Media and Self Image
Updated: Mar 1
Our generation is one of the first to grow up with social media at the centre of our world. It's changed the way friendships are made, media is shared, and the way we perceive and react to information. This means our shared human experience, whether we recognize it or not, has been greatly influenced by the manipulative ways social media can obstruct our mentalities. Just as it is never far from our hands, Social Media also commands to never be far from our minds. All too often I find it occupying my own thoughts and the minds of those closest to me, toying with our perception of self worth, blurring lines between what's personal and what isn’t. All the while this is happening, it reaches to seize control of our lives.
Influencing us to stay online and more effectively sell ads, Social Media rots our brains until we become mentally incapable of originality. By destroying a sense of individuality and instilling a need of needing to fit in, we are more likely to buy products advertised to us online that will keep us likeable and trendy. As much as it's difficult to admit, the idea of controlling how people perceive you with a collection of ph
otos is a very attractive one. The issue is, a lot of us have a hard time seeing the worth of this image past the likes and comments we get.
Let's consider Tiktok: an app advertised to provide useful tips and funny content but often goes to serve the opposite. For a huge portion of teenagers who spend time watching its videos on a daily basis, the app drills unhealthy lifestyles as ‘cool’ and ‘edgy.’ It romanticizes topics such as mental illness, abusive relationships, self harm, drugs, and trauma. Although traumatic experiences should not be frowned upon, what should be is the deep desire to experience them just for the sake of sensationalising it. Tiktok also promotes very stereotypical images of people. Is it any secret why tiktokers known for their beauty - such as Addison Rae, Loren Gray, or any member of the Hype House - are all white?
While older generations are afraid to touch on subjects like sex despite it being a common topic many people feel similarly about, our generation seems to feel the same about Social Media.
This seeming unanimous agreement does not change the fact that we all go home to scroll through to the first social media platform our eager thumbs can reach. Something about this mindless activity of scrolling endlessly is hopelessly addictive. Sitting without having to think about the content being given and just listen, read or watch for about ten to thirty seconds, then moving onto the next post before our attention span runs out.. We have become so easily persuaded. But can you even blame us? It's been rooted in our brains since we got our first devices as young children.
Another mentally consuming platform is Instagram. The basis of Instagram is posting pictures of our faces in hopes of receiving likes and compliments from people we barely know. We sit, impatiently, checking every few minutes for any new comments, a rush of dopamine when we see one and disappointed when we don't. As we base this temporary happiness on such superficial variables we lose our own authenticity and self worth in the process… As if our value can be defined by a number of likes!
If depriving us of our self respect wasn't enough, as young kids we would compare ourselves to grown adults. I didn't think twice about the fact that my acne covered face wasn't meant to look like those women online - not the plastic surgery, or the photoshop, or the filters, none of it. My face and body were normal, healthy too. I wish someone told me that.
We labelled what was beautiful and what was not, we would pick and choose what should be praised and left the rest to rot. We allowed ourselves to desire what we will never have, without realizing it doesn't actually exist. It took me three years to register everything those body positive videos or health class conversations were warning us about, I experienced, so incredibly blindly.
Since 2009, hospital admissions for non-fatal self harm in girls ages fifteen to nineteen have gone up by 62% (Turning Life On, November 5). Since the unforgettable beginning of social media, self harm rates rise… makes sense. But what terrifies me the most is the following: for girls ages ten to fourteen, hospitalized self harm rates are now up by 189% (Turning Life On, November 5). Let that sink in. 189%.
To us, it's a stat on a page we'll forget in four days time. But those stats are taken from real cases, real lives. From people who are experiencing the trauma we so easily romanticize on TikTok. These young, impressionable girls will grow up forever sheltered by social media. Forever told what is beautiful instead of they are beautiful.
But what about these ‘perfect’ women behind the filters? A couple months ago an image of one of the Kardashians was ‘leaked.’ But it's not what you're thinking, it wasn't inappropriate or offensive. It was just a raw, unfiltered and unedited picture of her in a bikini. To me, there was nothing wrong with it, it was just a body, a real body. One with cellulite, stretch marks and hip dips. A body that lets her breathe fresh air, listen to the voices of those she loves most, watch her family grow old, walk and run, laugh and smile… what a body is meant to provide.
But to the women whose online presence was only ever known through heavy filters and professionally photoshopped curves, it was not up to her standards. She got her legal team involved to take it down.
She had set the standards for her own body so high, that she couldn’t even live up to it. Her unattainable standards affect her own self image as deeply as it affects ours. And I wish I could have told her, there's nothing wrong with her body.
If you can communicate without the deprived desire for validation through likes or glorifying unhealthy habits for the sake of fitting in, that's great. Social media isn’t ever going away, but the power must be placed and kept in our hands when it comes to defining our worth. It is all too easy to be swept up by the currents of what's current and trending; social media only serves to push people to frame their lives in an unrealistic and romanticized way that leads to unhealthy pressures and expectations to perform for an audience. Our society is addicted to these false narratives. However, as much as we all like to point our finger, we’re still the ones who make the platforms what they are. We give social media the power they need to keep us addicted. We consume and create content that fits the norm. How dare we criticize a world that we've created.