Instagram, Snapchat, Vsco and Twitter, with all their constant push notifications and targeted advertisements — welcome to the exciting online world of being a teenager. There is no arguing that social media has leeched onto millenials and Generation Z, but it is hard to believe just how much of an effect it is having on our thought processes, emotions and self-esteem.
Nowadays, it’s seemingly necessary to keep in contact with the rest of the world. I sometimes find myself scrolling through accounts and feeling down about myself or about my life, or thinking, “Wow, I want my feed to look like [insert person here].” I am guilty of going on vacation and wasting an entire day on the beach taking pictures for Instagram, completely sunburned by the end of the day as a result. This media phenomenon got me thinking — what is it that teens are comparing ourselves to online and what is it we are trying to gain?
For those of you who don’t know, a social media “influencer” is the term used for what some would call an “online model.” These are usually people who are paid or sponsored by certain companies to model a brand of clothes or endorse a product in their posts. Advertising has always been around, but nowadays, social media platforming provides a catch. These influencers are just regular people like you and me. Scrolling through Instagram is no longer just seeing ads of Selena Gomez modeling for Puma, but rather a girl you used to play volleyball with, posing just perfectly in a sponsored necklace somewhere in Los Angeles.
I have found girls, specifically, impacted by the dark side of social media. It is hard not to compare yourself to the perfectly edited pictures on your feed, and it can often be our self-esteem that takes a hit when we constantly expose ourselves to this. It was difficult enough seeing pictures of Kim Kardashian in a bodysuit and feeling that we should naturally look that skinny or blemish-free, but now, seeing our own friends in simlar poses makes us think the people in our inner circles even are leading similarly perfect lives. This type of culture is not good for any young person. This pressure to be flawless is fed to us from behind a screen. I was even a sponsored influencer for a short period of time on Instagram, but once I realized I was simply doing it to feed the “internet hype,” I quit, knowing that it was teaching me a false image of perfection.
Posing on vacation all the time, I came to the conclusion that what we as teens are trying to gain from posting sponsored pictures is something entirely fake. We are feeding into a low self-confidence cycle that is giving us nothing. Social media will continue to be a prominent part of our world, so by no means should we try to ignore it. But instead, I’ve found that we should be posting for ourselves, for our real and authentic self-confidence, rather than simply “doing it for the ’gram.”
This is also true of other social media platforms, which can be equally destructive to our mindset. Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, for example, cause people to believe that someone’s worth is defined by how many followers or “likes” the user has. It’s frightening to think how these online forums could evolve to become even more hyper-edited in the future, potentially skewing our sense of reality altogether.
We must be the primary generation to overcome the faux stereotype of perfection. Not only should we be aware of social media’s impact; we should draw a line of how great an impact we’re willing to let it have.
Sofia Ortiz is a senior at St. Michael’s High School. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.