So­cial me­dia of­ten acts as toxic mir­ror for teenage girls

Midwest Times - - OPINION - Jes­sica King

When in class, our teacher would ex­plain to us about the beauty ideals so­ci­ety would char­ac­terise.

Not one girl in the class­room met the ideals de­scribed.

My fe­male class­mates, in­clud­ing my­self, felt emo­tion­ally sick about the way we looked and that we didn’t meet these stan­dards.

We are a vain and nar­cis­sis­tic so­ci­ety, mak­ing it ex­tremely hard for teenage girls to fit in.

I am 15 years old, from a small min­ing town in WA, and I now go to a board­ing school.

Hav­ing been a bul­ly­ing vic­tim at my school be­fore the one I’m at now, it made it hard for me to go to school each day and par­tic­i­pate in ev­ery­day school work. My emo­tional health got so intense, to the point that I started to skip school and had to visit a psy­chol­o­gist.

Viewing so­cial me­dia made me feel so mis­er­able about my ap­pear­ance that I hardly left my bed­room, and if I did I would try not to be no­ticed by my peers.

I want par­ents, as well as teens, to know the re­al­ity so­cial me­dia plays in our so­ci­ety.

We con­sume and use so­cial me­dia in our lives every sin­gle day.

It’s an in­cred­i­ble web of lies we spin to make our­selves and our lives seem more in­ter­est­ing or hap­pier, but so­cial me­dia has in fact be­come a toxic mir­ror. Young girls are be­ing pre­sented with un­re­al­is­tic beauty stan­dards formed from the world of so­cial me­dia.

Teens spend more than nine hours on me­dia plat­forms a day, which means they are open to the harm­ful ways it por­trays beauty.

Thin­ness is be­ing pre­sented as the ideal body shape for health as well as hap­pi­ness. This in­flu­ences fe­males to change their im­age to be “pret­tier, skin­nier and hot­ter”.

Vis­ual plat­forms in­clud­ing Face­book and In­sta­gram de­liver the tools that al­low teens to get ap­proval of their ap­pear­ance.

How many likes or com­ments they get on a photo makes them feel bet­ter about them­selves, but can also be­come ex­tremely ad­dic­tive. Apps on mo­bile de­vices make it eas­ier to cover up pim­ples, whiten teeth and air­brush with a swipe of a fin­ger, help­ing in­se­cure teens reel in those in­tox­i­cat­ing likes.

Me­dia does a poor job at defin­ing what a “nor­mal girl” looks like. One of the big­gest com­pli­ca­tions in me­dia is the lack of diver­sity, ide­al­is­ing fe­male celebri­ties who are white, tall and thin. Fe­male celebri­ties are con­stantly pho­to­shopped to per­fect their bod­ies.

When young girls see these un­healthy mes­sages — need­ing to have a thigh gap or a flat stom­ach — it tends to lead to eat­ing dis­or­ders to meet these beauty re­quire­ments.

Re­search shows the more a girl views so­cial me­dia, the greater the chance of de­vel­op­ing an eat­ing dis­or­der, as well as lower self-es­teem. Ac­cord­ing to beauty prod­ucts com­pany Dove, in 2014 women wrote five mil­lion neg­a­tive tweets about beauty, four out of five tweets be­ing about them­selves and the way they looked. Low self-es­teem can of­ten lead to de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, or the worst-case sce­nario, sui­cide.

If you or some­one you know needs help, call Life­line on 131 114.

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