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Today’s Teens Seek Approval Through Social Media

Social media can be fun and exciting. It can keep you connected to friends and family and help you stay up-to-date on the news. Unfortunately, social media can become stressful for many young people as they seek validation through likes and shares. As teens watch their follower counts rise or fall, their self-esteem and self-image … Continued

Social media can be fun and exciting. It can keep you connected to friends and family and help you stay up-to-date on the news. Unfortunately, social media can become stressful for many young people as they seek validation through likes and shares. As teens watch their follower counts rise or fall, their self-esteem and self-image may fluctuate as well. Today’s teens tend to utilize social media for many things, and approval is one of them.

We all seek approval. It is a part of what makes us human. We want to know that we are worthy and loved and that our work matters to the world. When we are young, we accomplish this with pretty pictures that we proudly show our parents, but this praise becomes more challenging to achieve as we get older. Parents no longer hang scribbles on the refrigerator and reward you for good grades after elementary school. Teens also crave validation from outside sources, and their parent’s opinions matter less as they grow. Thus, teens are left to seek approval other ways, and parents may not be paying attention.

In an article for Salon, Caroline Knorr outlines how social media starts as a fun way to document daily life. However, it can quickly become an obsession, especially for young girls. Recent studies on the effects of social media show that young girls are particularly vulnerable to social media’s impact on self-esteem. While we have been comparing ourselves to images in traditional media for decades, Knorr points out that social media is much more immediate and intimate than the traditional forms that were popular in the past. According to her article, 35%of young girls are worried about people tagging them in unflattering images, 27% feel stressed about how they look in photos, and 22% feel bad about themselves when they do not achieve a sufficient number of likes or shares on their images.

In a Feminist Forum Review article,  author Richard Perloff explains, “given the heavy online presence of young adults, particularly women, and their reliance on social media, it is important to appreciate ways that social media can influence perceptions of body image and body image disturbance.”

Social media plays a significant role in the communication of cultural stereotypes about body image. Messages received on social media can create unrealistic or distorted images of beauty and lead to depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Teens are constantly connected to the World Wide Web. They interact mainly online and access social networking more than older adults. As a result, teenagers today may feel like they are under constant pressure. Regularly posting status updates, viewing the number of followers they have, or analyzing the number of likes they have received on a  recent post can leave teens feeling less than worthy.  Social media has been linked to higher levels of depression, increased anxiety, and greater feelings of loneliness.

Thankfully, there is hope…

The #NoFilterChallenge:

There is a trend that has taken the internet by storm. The #nofilter Challenge is about uploading pictures that are not perfect and showing the world that you are a real person with natural flaws – just like everyone else.

Women worldwide (some of whom are very notable) are making waves by no longer using their feeds as a highlight reel. The #nofilterchallenge women are posing make-up-free – without the use of filters – for selfies that often end up going viral.

What began as a rebellion against the manufactured perfection and secrecy that is social media has become a reminder that women are just humans. Like you and I, they have zits, wrinkles, and flaws.

While unofficial, this Instarealism movement has been around for many years and is still going strong. The #NoFilterChallenge sends a message to young women everywhere that perfection lies in imperfection and encourages them to embrace their flaws as part of their unique beauty. 

In this visually obsessed, narcissistic society, teens are under a lot of pressure to look ‘perfect’ in their posts. Filtering away reality is not only the norm; it is the expectation. Exhaustingly perfect selfies can leave young women scrambling to measure up, and many fall short – in their minds anyway.

The best way to combat this disturbing trend and help the young women in your life embrace their natural beauty is through continuous dialogue. Talk to your teens about what they see online, show them the editing process involved in modeling images, and ensure that they know the beauty of natural women online. Search up hashtags such as #nofilterchallenge, #nomakeupchallenge, and #nofilterneeded.

Show the young woman in your life that she is fantastic and beautiful and try to understand her need to look pretty in her online posts. While the use of filters can be upsetting, it is essential to realize that they can also be fun. Allow her to have fun but remind her of her natural beauty as much as you can.

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