Self-Esteem In The Instagram Era

Aug 7, 2016

Social media seems to be taking over the world, especially among teens and young women. Twitter, Instagram, and SnapChat are probably among the many apps on every girl’s (and maybe on your) smartphone. However, more and more experts agree that Instagram could potentially hurt your teen’s confidence and self-esteem. A platform where emotions can run wild – and where insecurities run wilder, Instagram is social media’s current top dog, with 80 percent of teens naming it their app of choice.

One of the biggest perils of Instagram is the warped self-perception and the lengths we all go to curate the ‘perfect’ virtual self. In real life, we may spend years trying to ‘find ourselves;’ but on social media, with 60 million images uploaded to Instagram every day, it seems girls are trying to find a version of themselves that gets the most positive feedback – or the most ‘likes’ – constantly seeking validation.

Instagram’s other hidden danger is the way tweens and teens use the app to find out what their peers really think of them (Was that comment about my dress a joke or did she mean it?), who likes you (Why wasn’t I tagged in that picture?), even how many people “love” them. They can obsess over their friendships, monitoring social ups and downs in extreme detail. They can strategically post at high traffic hours when they know peers are killing time between homework assignments. “Likes,” after all, feel like a public, tangible, reassuring statement of a girl’s social status.

And there is the other extreme of this spectrum: many young women are rebelling against the never-ending quest for social media validation. Like Essena O’Neill, an 18-year-old from Australia, who was a regular teen who amassed half a million followers on Instagram with selfies, outfit posts and the usual “perfect” body photos. Sick and tired of having to maintain this false sense of self, Essena decided she was done with the fake side of social media. She deleted 2000 photos, renamed her account to “Social Media Is Not Real Life,” and changed the captions on existing photos with truthful anecdotes about posts she was paid for, how many tries it took to get the shot, and the pressures she felt to look perfect.

All this, put together, can make for a perfect storm for pressure, reduced self-esteem and feelings of low self-worth in teen girls, even in the most “popular” of social media users. Our best advice to you, mom: if you notice that your young girl relates to these ways social media affects their self-worth, it might be time to unplug and have a truthful conversation about virtual and real worlds.

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