THE KAIZEN BLOG
PRESSURE TO POST:
a 17 year old student's
perspective on social media
By a Calgary teen - June, 2020
This blog post is not intended to make anyone feel bad or upset but rather to be aware of issues I've faced as a 17-year-old girl growing up surrounded by social media. The topic is a tricky one to discuss because discussing it brings up feelings of worry about how people will think about what I am presenting here. As teenagers, we've all had the 'peer pressure' talks and warnings, but pressure from others over social media can take on a whole new level of compulsion, making it difficult always to be your brightest and most genuine self. I wrote this for my peers, teachers, and parents to see through my eyes.
TO MY PEERS
Social media has placed an absolute pressure on us to SHOW UP PERFECTLY.
Show up in many different ways because of the pressure to post while still fitting into a particular ideal that isn't reflective of who we are. Social media has sucked us into an ongoing loop of trying to match the picture of someone else's 'perfect' life. Perhaps we're intrigued because of how good the person looks or maybe it's the background of where the photo was taken. Regardless, we want others to be impressed by us, don’t you agree?
Personally, I can speak for apps like Instagram or even Tiktok, reinforcing me to never accept myself as I was. I was always left looking for ways to live a life that wasn't mine, and this was often based on an ideal picture of someone else. The truth about apps like Instagram is that you're almost always going to see that perfect picture and the perfect background, or maybe an edited photo making the appearance of the person look flawless.
Like slowly sinking in quicksand, this realization S-L-O-W-L-Y became apparent to me when I found myself admiring images that had been touched up, enhanced, or modified somehow. My friends and I would poke fun at the image that wasn’t ‘fixed. Much like alcohol and drugs, social media has become the "new peer pressure," resulting in a detrimental addiction of comparison, popularity contests and eventual self-loathing. I have spent hours upon hours scrolling through picture after picture on Instagram obsessed in a false world that took up hours of my day. You can easily spend hours idolizing lives that are completely staged and untrue!
...I found myself admiring images that had been touched up, enhanced, or modified somehow.
I became obsessed with posting the 'best' pictures of myself and checking my profile for reinforcements.
I have had some great mentors that I've looked up to and who have guided and helped me through school and life. Teachers have been some of these people, and their encouragement and support have got me through those more challenging days. However, at times, I struggled with some of my teachers' comments. Let me say, I honestly don't think they understood the impact of their statements on my mindset. Teachers can feel all-knowing at times. What they say must be the right way to think, right? At certain times in a teen's life, teachers can have more influence over us than parents.
For example, I had a teacher who had firm opinions on what types of foods were acceptable to eat. This perspective, combined with other teachers' comments on how good I looked when I lost some weight, I began to think about EVERYTHING I was eating. These body image 'compliments' were reinforced each day by friends, family, and many were received through Instagram.
My likes and followers increased, and the world began to see me as an improved and upgraded version of myself. I became obsessed with posting the 'best' pictures of myself and checking my profile for reinforcements. "You look amazing!" "Gorgeous.", "Wow, what program are you on?",“ You should model.”
The pressure to post was out of control, and my self-value was purely based on what others thought of me, including my teachers. Believe me, I'm not saying teachers are responsible for this. BUT, as a role model that I look to as wiser and stronger, I am saying that your commentary on how much better I look is SO impactful on how good I feel in a day, especially if you say this in front of my peers. After all, you are a trained professional. Why wouldn't I believe you?
I want to share with parents how much social media affects teens and self-image.
We can't just be told to 'ignore what other people say about us.' This social media obsession is not just a 'teenager thing' or a 'phase' we will get through or a 'right of passage.'
Instead, our obsession with having to compare ourselves with others makes it difficult to let us live in the moment and bring a positive attitude towards anything we do.
Yes, we are distracted because we always crave acceptance. It's what's on our minds ALL THE TIME. We want a better and more significant accomplishment. We want you to be proud of us, including how we look. When you tell me to love myself just the way I am, but you are the one eating special foods, on a diet and grumbling about gained pounds when you see your picture on Facebook, I am conflicted.
Many of my friends are angry, depressed and anxious, even if they are the most popular but I may not tell you that. I wonder too why we teens don't make the connection until we hit rock bottom. The instant gratification of knowing if you look good and are worthy of a 'like' is a nasty, often hidden, addiction. We are ninjas at hiding it really well, and of course, the reason we are anxious, moody or scared could NEVER be because of our phone use..right? (insert sarcastic font here!) We’ll deny it to the end.
When you tell me to love myself just the way I am, but you are the one eating special foods, on a diet and grumbling about gained pounds when you see your picture on Facebook, I am conflicted.
Take away our access to social media once in a while. Set boundaries in your homes and classrooms.
Thank you for reading.
I know my experiences are not the same as others, but I am happy to get the opportunity to speak for some kids that I know may feel the same way. I'm hopeful that I can help bring attention to how social media has made self-acceptance is a daily challenge for me.
If you are a teen, try deleting some apps, for even a few hours, and see how much your mood changes and how much extra time you have. Don't be hard on your parents if they are curious about your online activity and set some restrictions. Honestly, it can be a lifesaver.
If you are a parent or teacher, think about how putting your values, and self-pressure can affect your student's/child's self-acceptance. I encourage adults not to emphasize how 'bad they look' or 'how much weight they should lose' or ‘how they don’t look good’ and please don’t comment on your son/daughter’s body type...you may think you are complimenting or suggesting, but in fact, you may just be reinforcing something much darker.
Accept your kid or your student as they are. Take away our access to social media once in a while. Set boundaries in your homes and classrooms. We may roll our eyes, grumble and fight about it, but really, you are helping us figure it all out.
We're still finding our way.