Primping for Likes: Teen Girls Posing for Self Esteem
Through pinning, friending, and tweeting, social media sharing has become one of the easiest forms of communicating, especially for young people.
However, the convenience comes with a price.
The digital universe bombards teenage girls with opinions and rules on how they should look, who they should like, and how to behave.
Family and relationship expert Dr. Jill Weber focuses on issues related to women and our culture in her bookHaving Sex, Wanting Intimacy - Why Women Settle for One-Sided Relationships.
"Social media is very prevalent as we know. It's almost impossible to avoid it, it's impossible to be a teen girl or boy and feel normal without participating in some kind of social media. When it becomes problematic, especially for teen girls, is when it's sort of used as an outlet to form an identity and understand one's self," Weber said.
Social media adds pressure for girls to seek an almost "artificial perfection," which can lead to psychological and emotional problems.
The staggering success of Instagram shows the power of images. According to Instagram, people share some 20 billion photos a day worldwide, scoring 1.6 billion likes.
As uploads stream daily, many teens base their self-esteem on their number of "likes" or "followers."
But how fulfilling does that leave social media users who use the sharing platform?
"If a girl or a woman is struggling with a sense of herself feeling good enough, feeling worthwhile, maybe she is turning to social media more than the norm. At times she feels good she, gets a lot of likes, a lot of attention, maybe it gives her a temporary sense of validation, but that validation is temporary," Weber said.
"It's often fickle because the next day you could post a photo and not get any positive feedback, then her self-esteem plummets," she added.
That need for positive feedback forces many teens to go for the "sexier" look they see splashed across magazine covers, television screens, and websites.
A common trend of photos promoted on sites like Instagram seem to have a theme: girls who are looking very sexy or slim.
'I Want to Look Like That'
Being bombarded every day with models in images looking perfect can put a lot of pressure on the way a woman feels about her own body.
"It creates a false idea of what reality is that some girls look perfect all the time, but really they just struck the pose for the camera at that particular moment," Weber said.
When investigating how this issue permeates our youth, CBN News found many teenage girls agree.
"Social media definitely sets a trend of what you should like and as teenage girls we try to reach that image," 16-year-old Cara Rosie said.
"You see stores putting out ads all the time of different women, then you think, 'aw, look at these people, they look so good,' and you're like, 'aw I want to look like that.' But it kind of makes you less content with your own self," Caroline Hardesty, a highschool junior, said.
Various studies show this problem also hits before the teen years. According to Duke University, 40 percent of all 9 and 10 year olds have already been on a diet.
The National Eating Disorders Association says 70 percent of 6 to 12 year olds want to be thinner, and 70 percent of girls from grades 5 to 12 say modern magazines influence their idea of a perfect body.
Agressive Cyber Bullying
While looks and peer pressure are nothing new, social media adds a new twist, cyber bullying.
"Cyber bullying for girls is extremely prevalent because there is a way you can be aggressive, but yet you're not really on display. I have talked to girls that are like 'I don't know which one is doing it, but I keep getting these comments,'" Weber said.
"We have a huge problem with cyber bullying and these awful comments," family therapist Dr. Linda Mintle said.
"The pressure, again, of girls thinking that they have to look sexy all the time and the whole thing of sexting and putting out pictures to get boys interested in them," she added.
Social media will only continue to grow, so parents must help children navigate this world of mixed messages.
"I just want my children to know, I want to teach them that what they do matters, what they say matters, the images they post matter and the images they post matter and stuff like that will last a long time," Benjamin Gill, a father of seven expressed.
It's important to remind youth that whatever they post on the Internet is in the public arena forever.
A powerful tool could be to give the youth ideas of what is appropriate to post, instead of sexualized pictures where they are trying to pose, always looking "vogue-like."
Weber and Mintle both advise parents to also urge their daughters to focus on personality and character, not outward appearance, and to remember, it's the beauty that's inside that will matter most in the long run.