I had the pleasure of speaking last night at a school in the East Bay, Mount Diablo high school, where I spoke to teachers and parents. I didn’t share our standard Above The Fray presentation. We’ve been giving fairly similar presentations for the last few years talking about all of the aspects that go into talking with their kids about their digital lives. We talk about issues related to social, social media, online, pornography, gaming, you name it.
But last night we did a little bit deeper dive into one specific area. You may have seen some of the things I’ve been posting about it over the last couple of days, but this is something that really needs our attention right now as parents, as adults, and as a society – and that his body dissatisfaction because of social media. Not body image. Body dissatisfaction specifically.
And one of the things that I shared with parents last night is that you might not ‘get it.’ You might not quite understand what I’m talking about and why this is such a big deal. If you were a child of the sixties, seventies, eighties, or even the nineties our exposure to the supermodels, our exposure to this glamorous lifestyle was extremely finite. We would see things in a magazine. We would see things on the cover of a magazine. We’d see Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous with Robin Leach, right? These were things that were small, finite moments of our lives where we were exposed to the glamorous people, the beautiful people. You and I growing up had very limited exposure to things that could potentially warp our sense of reality.
Kids today don’t have that reality. Their reality today is completely different. It’s a constant barrage of imagery in their face. Instagram. Snapchat. All day long. And what are they seeing?
What are they seeing?
They’re seeing the influencers. They’re seeing the people that are purporting to be someone who they might not be, and that’s one of the biggest lessons that we need to teach our kids. A lot of times this stuff people are sharing on social media, Instagram specifically, it’s not real. It’s as produced. It’s as curated as a television show, as a movie.
When you go into a movie theater, when you sit down to watch tv, you buy into the premise. You say, ‘Oh, I know this is a fictional story.’ There are actors, there are cameramen, there are directors, producers behind this, and I am going to buy into this fictitious world for a little while. We know it’s not real. We know it’s CGI. We know that’s made up.
The same thing is happening right now on Instagram, but our kids don’t realize it. Not a lot of adults don’t either. What I’m talking about is the highly curated lifestyle and imagery that you’re seeing on Instagram. For a lot of the influencers, that’s not their life. It’s an ad just like a TV show, just like a movie. It’s staged, it’s curated, but when you’re a child and you’re developing that gray matter and you’re seeing the constant images in your phone of these people with this glamorous lifestyle, of these people that have these cars, that take these trips, that have these clothes, that are super skinny or super fit, it starts to warp your psyche a little bit. It starts to have an impact on how you view the world and more importantly, how you view yourself.
I want to share with you a couple of things really quickly with regards to what I shared last night at the presentation. Let’s just talk about Instagram for a minute. According to the latest data from the Pew Research Center, 72% of American teens are active on Instagram right now. Let that sink in for a second. 72% of American teens are active on Instagram right now. How crazy is that? Nearly three-quarters of kids are seeing this stuff.
Study after study is showing the toll it’s taking on our kids. I want to share a couple of quotes to you from the Royal Society of Public Health. “Instagram draws young women to compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality.”
“Instagram makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order to look perfect.”
That’s it, right? That’s what we’re talking about. It’s the insecurity.
What Can We Do?
Here are the top five things that I want to stress.
#1 is the insecurity. We see the people on Instagram and we want that lifestyle and it makes us feel unworthy. We’re not as skinny. We’re not as popular. We’re not as pretty. We’re not as rich. We’re not going to all of these great places, or having these beautiful experiences. That makes us feel insecure, insecure, insecure.
#2 is obsessing over likes. Have you ever deleted a photo because it didn’t get enough likes? Be honest. Have you ever deleted a photo because it didn’t get enough likes? That’s a real thing. There is a direct tie between how great we feel about ourselves when we post a picture and it gets a lot of likes. Inversely, there is a tie to how bad we feel about ourselves when we post a photo and it doesn’t get a lot of likes.
#3 is stressing over posting. We’re talking about selfies specifically. Hours and hours of time over a lifespan are spent editing, getting these selfies just right. Editing my eyes, my skin, my lips, my face, my hair, whatever it is. Obsessing over the postings, the stress that that causes.
#4, for some teens, they’re saying that social media is more important than the real world. The face that they’re putting out to the world on Instagram and Snapchat is more important than the one that they’re sharing with people in their real life.
#5 the more selfies someone takes and posts, the more negatively they view themselves. And let me repeat that. The more selfies someone takes and posts, the more negatively they view themselves. It’s because they’re constantly looking at themselves. They’re overanalyzing every aspect of their face, their hair, their lips, their eyes, every single thing that they’re posting.
93 million selfies are taken each day. That’s according to Google. 93 million selfies are taken every single day.
Do you know how many selfies are millennials going to take in his or her lifetime? 25,000. That’s right. Millennials are taking 25,000 selfies in their lifetime.
Do you know how many pictures we took of the first moon landing?
Five. Five pictures we have of the first moon landing. Yet we’re taking 25,000 selfies during our lifetime.
This is a real issue. This is a red flag. The sirens are going off. The impact that social media and digital technology is having on our children’s body image and body dissatisfaction has never been more real and it’s never been more important to address. If you have any questions about this, please reach out to me. We have a new presentation that we’re offering to schools, churches, community groups, helping parents learn the issues and learn how to talk to their children about these issues.
Feel free to contact us at Above The Fray anytime.