Why are you insecure?

     Growing up, I always thought my teen years were the time of insecurities and blossoming maturity. I believed that 15 or 16 years of age was when girls would start to leave their phase of youth and start to express themselves in an older way. 

     But by age 11, girls in my classes started already trading in their stuffed animals and barbies for eyeshadow palettes, hair straighteners, and crop tops. Was it because of some unpredicted shift in youth culture, or was it because of their early introduction to the internet, seeing these older influencers gain popularity for their maturity and wishing to mimic the behavior to also gain popularity?

     Ever since social media was first introduced, countless accounts of body dysmorphia, especially amongst teens, have emerged and grown in numbers as their usage amongst the general population increased.  

     In Big Think’s video “Social Media addiction – how it changes your brain,” writer and businessman Luke Burgis notes the difference between external mediators of desire (the rich and famous) and internal mediators of desire (people whom we see online and close in person who we wish to become). To idolize having a celebrity lifestyle is something that is less detrimental since it is less attainable. To idolize an online presence, however, can be catastrophic to a person’s wellbeing, as getting followers is much easier than becoming a millionaire overnight. 

     Yet, it’s not just the obsession of becoming internet-famous that can cause weakening mental health; body image and trends presented on social media have been leading cases in declining self-esteem for the past few years. 

     Since the start of social media, advancements in technology of filters and apps like facetune have been used by influencers and celebrities to alter their body shapes to fit unrealistic beauty standards. In a study on photoshop used with images on social media, it was found that 71% of pictures posted to these sites are edited before being posted. What’s even worse is that many users who see these pictures are unbeknownst to the modifying of them, making it very easy to become wrapped into the self-doubt of your physical appearance in comparison. 

     These alterations only bring fuel to the fire that is body dysmorphia and worsening mental health. In unison with the rise of social media, accounts of eating disorders have increased from 3.4% in 2000 to 7.8% of people in 2018. Depression rates amongst adolescents have in addition risen from 8.1% to 15.8% between the years 2009 and 2019 as seen in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

     Cyberbullying also plays into this persistent issue. Body shaming is one of the most common forms of bullying online, the fact that it can be done in a (anonymous?) manner without much repercussion making it chosen and constant throughout all platforms. This form of harassment has become a larger issue in the past few years amongst apps like TikTok and Instagram: two forms of social media whose users are largely Gen Z. 

     Despite the clear trend that social media’s increasing effect on youth is detrimental, this issue is not one that can fully be resolved. As a society, the world’s accessibility to the internet alone has made it so incredibly easy for people to become addicted. In just five years, the amount of Tik Tok users universally have spiked from 271 million to 1 billion, in addition the number of Instagram Users increasing from 1 billion to 1.35 billion. On average, users individually spend over 130 minutes a day on social media, while Gen Z spends almost four hours every single day.

     A decade ago the majority of phone and tablet users were adults and teens; currently, kids are receiving phones as early as elementary school, and the mere idea of a tablet conjures the image of a toddler playing Cocomelon on their dirty, sticky ipad.

     Most people’s solutions would be to just distance youth from the internet, to limit their access to these entry ways into the online world. Yet, taking this course of action in turn damages the placement of a teen in their society, as so much of youth culture is centered around jokes and topics online.

      In truth, being a teen in this day and age is so much worse than time before. You not only compare yourself to people who you know in your life, but also every single person online who you see on social media. There are constantly fluctuating and unattainable beauty standards that you’re faced with, that you feel if you don’t live up to them, you might be mocked for it.

  Only in the past few years social media has been prominent, this form of global connection quickly turned into a breeding ground of hate and self-doubt. It makes you wonder: will it ever get better?


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