This is especially prevalent in the female population. We fear the rejection of our friends and society and so instead of being ourselves, we conform to the pressures that are set upon us. It's hard to remain our true selves when there is so much false nature in the midst.
For decades females from all over the world have been wrapped around the idea of certain beauty standards. Adolescent girls are so caught up in being accepted that they forget who they really are, losing their sense of identity. In the book Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher says, “Online presentation pushes girls towards promoting a perfect and utterly false self. Meanwhile, the true self is buried at best or, at worst, not even developed (Pipher 40).” This causes a detrimental issue to their mental health. They’re so fixated in becoming a barbie doll and popular that it greatly impacts their mental state. By trying to become someone they’re not, they are constantly telling themselves they aren’t good enough. They’re trying to obtain this sense of perfection, hence why “online social comparison is associated with depressive symptoms.” In a survey conducted by Common Sense Media: “27% of adolescents are stressed about how they look when posting photos, 22% fear when nobody comments or likes their photos, while 35% worry about being in photos they get tagged on”. The feeling of receiving and obtaining a certain number of likes has been compared to the same reactions we get when being rewarded. The part of the brain that is stimulated is known as the nucleus accumbens. The release of dopamine occurs as a result of the positive feedback received. Social media isn’t simply an app we go to interact with friends with similar interests anymore, it's become an addiction, which is why we continue to go back to it even though it lowers our self-esteem.
A study conducted by Jean M. Twenge and W. Kieth Campbell in 2018 compared the mental health of 14 to 17-year-olds who used social media for about an hour a day to ones who interacted with it for seven hours a day. The experiment showed that people who tend to stay online for longer periods of time were “twice as likely to have been diagnosed with depression, been treated by a mental health professional, or taken medication for a psychological or behavioral issue.” If you consider the multiple changes that teenage girls are facing such as puberty and entering middle school or high school, you get a whole new array of factors in the mental health issues adolescents face. The most alarming thing is that social media is so easily accessible, making younger generations prone to experimenting with it. This means that anyone with a mobile device or any device at all can be part of the social media community. Not only does the toxic environment of the internet's beauty standards damage a girl’s confidence, we also see the circulation of cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying be new and began building as social media platforms progressed. The effects of cyberbullying on mental health range from the following: “anxiety, loneliness, depression, suicidal behavior, and even physical issues like stomachs and headaches”. Several surveys of adolescents show that “teen depressive symptoms and suicide rates increased” as a result of the booming popularity of smartphones in the beginning of 2010, especially amongst females. Researchers believe that these rising rates are because of social media. Females who are already self-conscious about themselves have even more negative thoughts as they receive negative feedback. It's no wonder that these mental health problems are increasing in the girl population. The pressures of social media can be found everywhere in the world. It isn’t only situated in one place. It's a universal platform that has a grand number of followers. This makes the matter more important. It's on such a worldwide level that millions of girls are experiencing these feelings.
One of the most efficient ways to help with the mental degradation of these young girls would simply be to limit their time on these social platforms. It doesn’t need to be something as drastic as completing deleting the app even though it would be the most ideal. In a study done by The Lancet, they discovered 27% of teens who used social media reported high psychological stress whilst teens who used social media less frequently only experienced 17% high psychological stress. This is a grand total of 10% different in the thousands of students that were surveyed. Setting a certain limit on platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube, which has some of the highest teenage usage percentages, can positively impact adolescent mental health. As mentioned before, the elimination of social media all together could also prove helpful. Women and girls wouldn’t have to worry about the pressures of the outside world, and they would have more freedom to be themselves. They wouldn’t be constantly faced with these “perfect” images and they can create their own image of beauty starting with? themselves. Although they might have some feelings of being left out, it could benefit them immensely because they aren’t getting involved in negative online affairs. Counseling for these girls could also prove to be positive as they could have a safe space to talk about their troubles not only from social media, but on a more personal level. Even just speaking about it with your peers who have experienced the same thing could help relieve a bit of stress the media contains.
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