Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest are just a few of the more popular social media communities that allow us to connect, share and create. With follower counts, like buttons, pins and online threads, it is hard not to be drawn in by these dynamic virtual worlds.
As I watch Essena O’Neill on YouTube (a self-made Instagram sensation) reveal her struggles with self-acceptance and the reality behind her perfect Instagram pictures, I wonder how many people questioned their own beauty, ability and self-worth while scrolling through the countless selfies of this seemingly flawless girl.
Social pressures and artificial norms are not new, but the messages shared online have a far greater reach. Essena’s personal reflections not only show the impact social media can have on an individual, including our youth, but they also challenge us to question what we are seeing and reading online.
I cannot deny that social media is amazing in that it gives us the chance to instantly share our lives with so many people. The flip side to this is that anything and everything, good or harmful, can go viral, with potentially negative consequences. After scrolling through Pinterest, you may ask yourself (or at least I have), “did that mom with four children under five really make lunches that looked like farm animals this morning?” and “Is this what good moms do and am I failing my children?”
As an adult and parent, I feel the impact of social media messaging, and that is why I believe we need to talk about social media with our youth. Children today are growing up with this virtual world that has the ability to influence their sense of self-worth, actions and life choices. So, how do we sift through the virtual noise personally and with our children to highlight the positives (and negatives) of social media? I am not sure I have the complete answer to this – but I know one thing for sure: we need to remind ourselves and our children that true happiness and success grows from self-acceptance and an understanding of who we are, not from the number of ‘likes’ we get on an Instagram photo.
Now more than ever, parents and children need to hold on to their sense of self-worth, celebrate the assets and ideas they have to share, and always remember to ask, “is what I am seeing really as attainable as it appears, and is it really that important?”
What are you thoughts?
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