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Instagram & Self-Esteem

Instagram2By: Lucy Whittaker

With all the seemingly flawless women posting filtered pictures of toned bodies in bikinis and full-on makeup transformations, Instagram can be a dangerous place for young girls. A couple of years ago, an Australian then-teenager and ex-model named Essena O’Neill admitted to her unhealthy obsession with the app, and many young adults share the same sentiments. Instagram users find themselves taking 10 photos before posting a so-called candid, or deleting posts because of the lack of likes. According to THE GUARDIAN,  O’Neill quit the platform, calling it “contrived perfection made to get attention.” If this is how Instagram manipulates its older users, can you imagine how detrimental it is to our young daughters?

From filters to airbrushing features, girls are pressured now more than ever to look their best in the virtual world. Browsing through their feeds, they discover that those that upload pictures of their skinny beach bodies or their new skin-tight bodycon dresses are often leading in this popularity contest. It’s the kind of attention people crave in the digital sphere, and teaches users a terrible formula of a good Instagram post. Even all the makeup transformations are teaching young girls how to put on all these products, leading them to wear an unnecessary amount of foundation, eyeshadow and such to school every day.

While makeup can be empowering, it can also send the wrong message to young girls. Just as the media and society at large have influenced women that confidence comes from makeup, social media channels have also contributed to such brainwashing. Even when the primary purpose of the photo or video is something other than a makeup tutorial, such as a product endorsement or an unveiling of beauty subscription boxes as shown on  The Scene, the ladies featured are always wearing a full face of makeup, complete with false lashes.

However, we cannot blame these women, who have hundreds of thousands of followers, as they don’t intend to convey any negative messages on self-image. Just like our young girls, women fret about their own body parts, despite what their IG snaps indicate. According to a study from the  University of Buffalo, those that base their self-worth on appearance are more likely to seek validation through social media, posting pictures showcasing their best angles, outfits and facial features. This results in more likes and followers, which only encourages them to continue posting similar photos in the future.

Your children joining social media is inevitable, but there are certain things parents can do to ensure their teens’ wellbeing. Toni Birdsong, an expert on the subject, shares the components of the app that they should be monitored, while Instagram itself has shared additional tips for parents. But perhaps the most important thing a parent must do for their kid is to talk with them. Explain why there needs to be parental control in social media usage, and help them foster a healthy perspective on these apps. Remind them to love themselves without the conditional opinions of others, and that self-love or -worth cannot be measured by the number of likes or followers.

About Lucy Whittaker: Lucy studied psychology in University before going traveling for 6 years in which she spent most of her time in Africa and then Asia. Now she writes for her local newspaper while also contributing to the family printing business.

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