Growing up in a Digital Age

Growing up in a digital age, it’s hard to avoid getting caught up in the need to constantly be connected to society. With all the various forms of social media that exist today such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, we are constantly exposed to a slew of advertisements and posts from our friends and family that keep us updated on their lives through these different platforms.This is a great way to keep in touch with people, stay updated on what’s going on in the world and keep yourself in the loop with what’s “in”. We have the whole world at our fingertips! To a young person, this is extremely appealing. We never have to go a second with out our loved ones, and we are always informed on the latest trending topic.

There are, however, many down sides to growing up surrounded by all of this constant exposure to society, especially as an adolescent girl. The media shows us photos of skinny models, which gives us an unrealistic portrayal of what our bodies should look like. We are constantly forced to compare ourselves to people posting photos that put their best foot forward. For example, we’ve all seen the person who is constantly updating us on their weight loss progression or posting photos with long captions about how their significant other is the most amazing person in the world.

Although seemingly harmless, this can all  be very detrimental to our body image, self esteem and overall happiness. Social media, advertisements specifically, reflect the idea of a patriarchal society that women’s bodies are objects meant to be displayed for all to judge. Women are taught at a young  age to be preoccupied with how they look and are under the impression that their worth is based on their beauty. It further encourages gender roles, that are detrimental to the development of any child. Adolescents are at a point in their lives where they are exploring their genders and sexuality. Putting pressure on them to act and look a certain way may leave them in a position where they are uncomfortable expressing who they truly are.

Not only are young girls hard on themselves for not looking like the women they see in advertisements, but their peers are hard on them as well. Social media platforms make it easier for people to criticise their peers without feeling guilty, and with no consequences. Cyber bullying has become a very prevalent issue in the lives of adolescents today, and can be extremely detrimental to the psychological well-being of victims. Adolescents are very easily influenced by the ideas of their peers, which makes it extra difficult for them to simply brush these things off and move on. This is a time in their development when thy are fragile and require support and empowerment, not negativity and hurtful criticism.

Cyber bullying and advertisements are not the only ways that social media wounds the self esteem of adolescents. An overuse of social media tends to leave us with a sense of loneliness. Constantly looking at posts of friends showing you all of the cool things they’re up to can leave us feeling down and left out. This brings us to FOMO- or fear of missing out. FOMO may seem like a silly concept to an adult who is not constantly immersed in social media, but to the younger population it is very real. Social media often leaves us feeling as if we are not doing enough with our lives, or like we don’t have enough friends. It can give us the idea that we have to do certain things in order to fit in or have a good time, even if it is an activity we may not want to take part in in the first place. FOMO, in itself, is a form of indirect peer pressure. Social media also forms opportunity for unnecessary fights and misunderstandings that would have no way of existing without the technology that we have today. This puts added stress on top of the stress that already exists from being a female adolescent in general. 

As a parent, it may be difficult to address this issue to our daughters, as technology is not something we all grew up with. It also may be difficult for teenagers to express their difficulties regarding social media and growing up in general to their parents. For this reason, it is important to create an open and honest relationship with your teen in order to create a safe environment for them to share their problems. It is essential not to brush off or make light of their feelings, as what they are experiencing is very real to them. Instead, practice empathy and try to understand and relate to where they are coming from.

Empower and encourage them. Build  up their self esteem. Show them that they are important and most importantly that they are loved unconditionally.

To that end The elbowroom is proud to announce the launch of a new course to help our daughters. We plan to empower young women with self love, self-esteem, body confidence, a healthy view of sexuality and the importance of consent. Girls United starts Saturday September 10th.

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