I think back to my own adolescence. Some of the more suggestive influences I encountered were Cosmo Magazine, 90210, The Real World, and Nelly rap videos. We didn’t have endless feeds at our fingertips of the Kardashian sisters or Insta models. We couldn’t swipe our thumb to view hundreds of flawless selfies of people we may slightly know or not know at all who are dressed to impress, or else hardly dressed at all. My parents were also aware of when I was talking to boys. I would head to our basement stairwell with the landline phone. Otherwise, I would log into AOL messenger during the after-school hours on our family’s bright blue iMac Generation 3 desktop computer that was as heavy as a bag of bricks. Do we know who our daughters are communicating with on social media? Who they follow or what they see? Do we know how often?
I would like to give you an honest example of how social media can still affect me, my thought processes, and my body satisfaction during a weak moment at the age of THIRTY-ONE…
Recently, I was lying in bed and opened up my Instagram. I was probably overly tired and PMS-ing at the time, but I’m here to share realness with you. I made the mistake of clicking on that little search icon with the intentions of pulling up a friend’s page. Before ever getting to her page, I was flooded with several images of young, fit girls with full bosoms, round rears, bronzed skin, and flawless hair, holding golf clubs in the perfect form to drive their golf balls into the fairway. I hopelessly scrolled through picture after picture of these young female golfers in revealing attire. One of the captions read “Give me clubs, fresh air, and a beautiful partner and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air”. 775 likes.
I started thinking about one of the last times I went golfing with my husband. My ankle started bleeding from the rough friction of my not-yet-broken-in New Balance golf shoes, I was sweating profusely in 90-degree heat, and my new golf skirt that we picked up at Dick’s Sporting Goods on the way was one size too big and kept drooping down my hips. Between sweaty SPF applications and reapplying Band-aids, I tried to remind myself to focus on the game…focus Jen, eyes on the ball, do not take your eyes off that ball! My husband took a video of me swinging my driver, and it certainly looked nothing like these hot to trot female golfers of Instagram. And there you have it –> COMPARISON.
After swiping further and further down, I seriously considered dropping my phone and busting into chair squats in my living room until I could feel something burn. But why would I be comparing myself to these girls? These girls with different lives, different agendas, who I know nothing about. Because it’s shining right in front of my face. And humans are weak. My next thought was “What happens when my daughter gets a phone? Wait, when do kids even get phones these days? Can I wait until she has graduated from high school? Would that make me the worst mom ever? Or maybe the best?” The next thing I knew, 20 minutes has gone by and I’m thinking “Wait, what just happened?!” Has anything similar happened to you before? Has time ever vanished just as fast as your self-confidence when browsing through Instagram or other social media platforms?
According to Tech Crunch, Instagram says they are creating a more personalized experience through this search feature, and posts that appear here are geared towards your own likes and interests. Maybe some pesky Instagram crawlers knew I had searched for golf attire online? Are Instagram crawlers a thing? I can’t tell you what algorithm is at play. What I can tell you is that most posts that appear after one swipe on my Instagram search are sexualized images of young women with the ideal physiques on picture-perfect vacations. So, I no longer click that little search icon unless an imperative search is in order. No, I’m not saying I’m not happy for all of you famous Instagrammers, you do you, and I will do me by clicking and swiping less.
IS SOCIAL MEDIA HARMLESS TO YOUR DAUGHTER?
Now imagine a developing child’s brain. What thoughts might spark in their head while browsing constant feeds of similar images? Bottomline people –> the less exposure they have to obscenely perfect and sexualized images, whether on Facebook, Instagram, the Internet, or Television, the less dissatisfied they will be with their own unique and beautiful appearances. We are humans. We are emotional and social beings. To expect a human not to absorb at least a little of what they are too frequently exposed to is a mistake. It’s an easy mistake we can make as parents, and as a society. Let’s spend more time living our lives in the world that we can touch and feel. Let’s spend more time doing good things for ourselves and for others.
It is well documented that the more adolescent girls are exposed to images of an ideal female physique, the lower their satisfaction becomes with their own body. Every peer-reviewed study that I examined on this topic came to this conclusion. Social media contributes greatly to this ideal standard that girls are so desperately wanting to obtain. A study carried out by Tiggemann and Slater in 2013 examined just over 1,000 adolescent girls in grades 8 and 9, chosen by the Department of Education from 18 different schools with various socioeconomic statuses. 95% of these girls had internet access in their home and more than 75% had active Facebook profiles, spending on average one and a half hours a day on Facebook alone. The Facebook users scored significantly higher on body dissatisfaction as well as internalization of the ideal female image, along with those that had higher numbers of Facebook friends and used the internet and social media for longer durations.
By NO means am I opposed to social media. I’m a social gal, and parenthood and life can feel a little lonely at times. I appreciate how easily I can reach out to people who I may otherwise not find chances to. I’m talking about setting LIMITATIONS and I’m talking about AWARENESS.
And parents of sons: boys are being trained more than ever to judge a book by its cover, instead of the heart and story inside. You have the power to change this.
BOOKS ON SOCIAL MEDIA AWARENESS
I recently discovered the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales. Even if you don’t have adolescent aged daughters quite yet, as I don’t, it is still worth a read to better prepare yourself for the years to come (which may come sooner than you think). This book will inform you of current trends among adolescent girls from various parts of America involving social media, mainstream media, slang, sexting, access to pornography, cyberbullying, advertising, and more. Nancy interviews adolescent girls from all over the country from different socioeconomic backgrounds to get their thoughts on their own body images. The words that come out of an 8th-grade girl’s mouth may shock you. You can also get the Kindle version here.
Another book I recommend is Girls Just Want to Have Likes: How to Raise Confident Girls in the Face of Social Media Madness by Laura Wolk. The title speaks for itself. Laura gives great advice for managing social media use under your roof, and will help you and your daughter recognize the effects of social media. She will take you “back to the basics”, creating real experiences with your daughter outside of the virtual world. You can also find the Kindle version here.
Lastly, I like to include books that you can read to/with daughters of any ages. This book isn’t necessarily on topic, but Dear Girl by Amy & Paris Rosenthal is basically a love letter to girls, reminding them to live boldly, take action, speak up, and love their differences.
Thank you so much for reading! This blog is clearly brand new. With boatloads of summer activities and school work, I will be chugging along slowly…slowly but surely 😉