The number of social media platforms and their users have significantly grown over the last 23 years and are going to continue to expand as time moves forward. Social media has and will continue to play a huge role in teen culture. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, surveys show that 90 percent of teens ages 13-17 have used social media. 75 percent report having at least one active social media profile, and 51 percent report visiting a social media site at least daily. Although these platforms can benefit users by making them feel connected, expressive, and up to date on current events, they can equally make users think negatively about themselves.
Common Discussed Risks:
Exposure to harmful content.
Cyberbullying, with a risk factor of diagnosis of mental health disorders such as: Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Depression etc.
Interference with sleep, exercise, homework or additional responsibilities etc.
The society that we live in today is often driven by social media. However, if there are significantly negative outcomes that can happen because of these platforms, why do we continue to use them? The answer begins with validation. Validation is so important in our day to day lives. It’s what gives us encouragement and reassurance to keep going. The unfortunate thing about wanting validation on social media, is that it’s not as easy as many would believe it would be to achieve. In fact, the standards that have been set within the social media culture are quite unrealistic to meet.
The pressure to look like the “perfect” human being is one of many concerning issues on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. From personal experience, I can say that I am one of many individuals that has experienced the negative impact of social media telling me who I should be, and especially on those platforms. When I think back to the middle/end of my high school experience, all I can think about is the body shaming that my peers had put me through. Whether it was in person or on my social media accounts in the comments. I was so young and naïve, and I didn’t realize how much I was letting outside opinions bother me. Not to mention, when I saw how different my comment section looked compared to the “prettier” and thinner girls’ accounts, I was convinced that I would never be good enough.
Unfortunately, because I neglected asking for advice or help of any kind, at the age of sixteen I picked up some pretty bad eating habits. My weight fluctuated often and so I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing, besides I would be viewed as “healthier” right? At some point I had hit my pique with this problem and before I knew it, I had been told that I was in fact far from healthy. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder and had been on the path of being diagnosed with an additional one at the rate I was going. I struggled to understand how this could be. I didn’t look or feel any thinner when I glanced in the mirror. Over time people’s mean comments began to go away once I had lost all of the weight that I did. However, my self-esteem did not go up and I didn’t know why until recently.
Sometimes I still reflect back and wonder why I thought how awful I had felt was worth positive comments on my swimsuit pictures. When I look at photos during that time in my life, I am now able to see what everyone else was seeing back then and it really makes me feel grateful that I did ask for help. Did my body look good in these photos? Absolutely, but it was for all of the wrong reasons. I was not genuinely happy, I was tired, depressed and anxious on a daily basis. When I say that telling someone how awful things were getting was the best decision I have ever made, I mean that. One of the biggest lessons I learned in the process of getting better is that the standards set for us in society are not meant to be followed because they are too specific and we as human beings are so complex. Many people will try to justify that social media is a place to be unique, but in my experience with it, I have been far from who I have always intended to be.
The most significant problem that we face as a society is that many of us don’t understand that it’s okay to be different than other people. Until we accept and live by not achieving these unrealistic standards on these platforms, none of us will truly be happy.
I encourage anyone struggling or anyone that knows someone that is struggling to reach out for help. None of us are alone.
Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-8433
Eating Disorders Hotline: 1-847-831-3438
Depression Hotline: 1-630-482-9696