The use of social media has significantly increased with the last decade. This is as a result of both increased internet connectivity and numerous platforms for people to engage each other, at least online. Technological advancements in the area of information technology has led to the creation of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, BBM, Instagram and Kik among others social media platform. It has also made it possible for millions of people to access and afford to purchase smartphones, iPhones and laptops for which makes communication easier and more convenient. This is a positive development as it has significantly reduced the cost and time of communications. Furthermore, it has also enabled to ameliorate the social, cultural, political and economic relationships of many people from around the globe. However, such developments have also been characterized by a number of challenges. Indeed, as is the course of nature every action has an equal and opposite reactions. One of these challenges brought about by the prevalence of social media is that young females who are becoming increasingly addicted to these social sites. They use these sites to seek recognition, acceptance and appreciation from amongst their friends, families and strangers. This makes them vulnerable and these sites have become immensely responsible in lowering the self-esteem of young girls. This paper will interrogate the nature of interactions between young girls and the rest of the society on social media. The paper will make an argument that the nature of this interaction is unbalance because young girls keep seeking for acceptance and validation from a society that no longer has the social bonds that protected youngsters against harmful aspects of society.
In order to put this argument into context, it is vital to interrogate the nature of the most popular social media platforms available to young girls. To begin with Facebook; it is a social website that makes it possible for the account holder who must be above the age of 13 to connect with friends and families. The fact the age limit is 13 years does not prevent girls who are lower than 13 years to join because it is extremely easy to lie while signing up for an account. The platform has a variety of services. One is able to post their status, photos and videos. It is also possible to comment and like photos, videos and comments that ones’ friends have uploaded. The service is efficient and happens on real time. Twitter, on the other hand, is slightly complicated than Facebook. One is able to tweet a post or a picture or video. It is also retweet or favorite a funny or interesting tweet from amongst the people one follows. Just like Facebook, it is also possible to send a friend a direct message that cannot be visible to the rest of the online community. Most of the available social media platforms operate under similar or slightly different settings. They all seek to promote interactions between people who are separated by geography, time and space. This means that it is possible to live-chat with a person in another continent despite the geographically and time distance. Having briefly yet concisely discussed what social media is all about, it is vital that the focus of the paper now turns to how the irresponsible use of these critical instruments can be used to lower the self-esteem of young girls.
Social media provides an even platform, unlike the opportunities that are offered by life offline. This means that individuals are able to say what they want, when they want and how they want without being responsible. If the person is not courageous enough to use his real identity, it has become increasingly easy to use an anonymous account to speak one’s mind without fear of being caught, identified or reprimanded by the rest of the society. Therefore, an online platform gives the opinion maker a blanket cover to write anything without any form of limitation. It is vital to mention during adolescence teenagers are extremely opinionated. They develop a post-conventional mode of thinking from the childhood’s conventional thinking. It is also an age of experimentation as they witness several changes not only in how their bodies develop, but also on how the society treats them. Rationality and common sense is not their greatest virtue as most teenagers want to test their limits in any given field. All this makes teenagers and especially girls vulnerable not only psychologically, but also socially and spiritually. These are areas that the girls are naïve and need guidance. Unfortunately, it is not what most of them find online.
The setting of social media naturally provides young girls with a competitive arena. There are constantly looking to be the person with the most likes on a photograph or the person with the post having the most comments. The experience on Instagram can be devastating. This is a platform where individual post their photographs which are liked by the friends. Popular musicians and models also use this platform to send out their photos. Such people get millions of likes and comments as their have millions of fans who adore them or admire their lifestyles. Therefore, if young girls are caught up in the competition to get more likes or comments on social media it becomes a recipe for disaster as they are likely to get mean comments, which can hurt them thus lowering their self-esteem. It is also unfortunate that some girls use social media to assess their progress in a weight-loss program. This positions such girls in a situation where online friends, whom not necessarily be her friends or friends using anonymous or altered names, to be mean, rude or offensive to her. As stated above, teenagers are extremely vulnerable and can extremely be hurt by what people say to them. Issues regarding their physique, beauty or completion are issues that teenagers hold dear. Therefore, many of them have not developed a thick skin to rubbish such comments.
In a study carried out by Flinders University, the researchers sought to identify some of the reasons why social media can lower the self-esteem of young girls. They used a sample of more than 1, 000 of different backgrounds and from different high schools. This was meant to make the study have a broad perspective in terms of the teenagers used in the sample. One of the cardinal and interesting findings from the study regards conversations about the appearance of young girls. Study reveals that discussions about appearance are intensified amongst the online community. It is also vital to note that this was one of the most influential discussions on social media. Interestingly, such discussions on Facebook twitter or even Instagram involve teenagers and their peers. They are the most critical of their friends yet victims of the same vice. To arrive at objective findings, researchers usually interview teenage girls about their online habits and their levels of self-esteem. For most teenagers because of school programs and other activities usually spent about an hour to three hours on Facebook and other social media.
During this time they check comments on their last posts, new notifications and friend requests. It is also time to post new status, comments and photos. Of specific importance to this paper is the posting of photos of self on social media. Apart from seeking favorable comments about themselves and their clothing, young girls also use social media to find out how other people think about the weight, body shape and curves. Research indicates that while about 70% of guys get favorable comments from their peers, a massive 46% are unhappy about their body weight and 63% are not comfortable about their body shape or curves. For example, the thigh gap has been a sensation in social media. Girls who post photos showing their thigh gaps get a lot of praise. In contrast, big girls may get nasty comments such as fat or puffy. The time a young girl spends on social media is directly proportionate with their low levels of self-esteem. The same analogy can be used in cases of illustrating high depression, body esteem and more significantly a sense of identity. This has led some researchers to argue that when young girls display themselves on social media platforms, in the quest for affection and validation, there are setting themselves up for negative mental health outcomes. This can also significantly affect the social life of the minor and subsequently affect their adult life. This is because when an individual develops a personality that personality will immensely affect the self and the subsequent personality acquired by the young adult. For example, if a girl was to lose their self-esteem, their will continue to look down upon themselves even when there are adults and in also in marriage.
The contemporary world has adopted a culture that highly appreciates exhibitions and models. This has made the society to begin judging people on how they look and how they appear. Physical appearance is given more credit than it actually deserves. This significantly influences teenagers to be on constant display. Unfortunately, this is a culture that does not serve the interests of the whole society. While a few will get acceptance from the society and may even get an opportunity to pursue their passions with big label companies, most of the young girls will be crushed mentally, emotionally and socially. Their low self-esteem will continue getting lower and lower as they continue to get fewer and fewer likes. By its inherent nature, social media is more interactive and pervasive than traditional media such as television, radio or the newspapers. This traditional media undergo multiple levels of editing and screening before content gets broadcasted. In fact, most of the materials that the broadcast on television is predetermined and its impact ascertained. Such media also subscribes to a certain set standard of ethics and principles.
When a young girl posts her picture, most of the comments will come from her peers and family. Sometimes friends who are old or younger can comment or like. It is also possible for strangers who are ‘ friends’ on the platform to comment or like. However, of all these people, it is the comments originating from the young girls peers that are of utmost significant. There are extremely influential and can either serve to low or increase the self-esteem of such a girl. This paper has overemphasized on appearance because the social media is preoccupied with judging an individual where by the only cardinal focus is the outward appearance of the girl. This makes these girls extremely vulnerable. Even a positive comment about how one looks is capable of having a negative impact on the girl in the photo. This is because of the preoccupation with the appearance rather than the person. The setting of the photo can also be significant.
Teenagers learn through experimentation, role models, mentors, peer groups and teachers. Of all these groups, peer groups and role models are the most influential. Most young girls have their role models as famous individuals or celebrities. These are individuals who have been validated by the media. Images of stick-thin girls on the cover of magazines, headlines news on entertainment television news and movies characterized most of these role models. When young girls look up to such girls for inspiration and their attempt to ape their lives styles and fashion designs, it ends up becoming a significant factor of low self-esteem. In a study conducted by the NetGirls Project, the researchers sought to find out the outcomes of prolonged use of social media and the results of such exposure on young girls. It also sought to understand how such exposure affects their self-esteem and world view. The results are consistent other researchers carried elsewhere. The researchers noted that a disputing correlation existed between the excessive use of social media and online platforms and issues of low self-esteem, depression and body-esteem.
YouTube has a made it possible for individual to post their own videos and uploaded in online for the whole world to see. This platform is not limited to friends and family as anyone can see. However, there has emerged a trend for young girls to record a video of themselves are post it on YouTube. They expect the world to validate them or appreciate their looks. This is largely informed by the way advertisements have been designed to use the body image of beautiful girls to sell products or services. Such adverts reinforce the significance of thinness and beauty in the mind of young girls. Therefore, they hope that the praise and favorable that is directed towards such adverts can also be directed towards them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the outside world with a lot of bitterness or opinionated about every aspect of life. Such girls make it possible for such individual to scrutinize all their features, which can make them extremely insecure. For example, the online community may decide to scrutinize her teeth, nose, weight, looks and shape. There is also a possibility that some individuals just like being mean and rude. They will comment anything with the main objective of hurting the feelings of such a girl. Most of the commenters of open platforms like YouTube are anonymous and strangers. They do not care how the girl will feel about their comments and will not be able to take responsibility for their actions. This leaves the young girls traumatized and feeling insecure about the appearance of almost all parts of their bodies.
It has been argued by some that such a venture may help one realize their potential or open up opportunities for them in various industries. It has also been argued that it enables a younger develop a thick skin towards criticism and the harsh realities of life. However, nothing is more further from the truth. At such a tender age and especially in a period that one wants to be happy it is extremely significant to only concentrate on the positive that life has to offer. Indeed, most teenagers still have not figured out what they want to do in the future. Moreover, those that have are less certain or have vague ideas of what the career actually entails. It is vital that their self-esteem is increased and guarded jealously.
In an epoch whereby young girls stay connected to their friends and family through social media 24/7, it is cardinal that all stakeholders and the society at large initiate measures to protect their self-esteem. Many girls have access to a mobile phone 24 hours a day and it is the duty of the parent, guardian and even teachers to know whether such a gadget is impacting her life positively. In addition, it is the responsibility of the entire society to sustain an environment that understands and accepts young girls the way they are born. This is from an understanding that all are all born differently, yet created equal before the eyes of maker.
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