There has been a lot of talk about how online social media images/messages/recommendations harm people’s body and self-image, how high levels of social media use by adolescents is associated with poorer mental health and self-esteem, and, in particular, increased body image concerns. The overall idea is that the social media vendors should take more care in ensuring that what is seen by the younger generation is less inappropriate and damaging or at the very least, less suggestive of the unattainable ideals that are being espoused and less access to products that promise to give us the “perfect” figure and the ensuing happiness that comes from it.
Now I am not saying that there shouldn’t be some level of concern and care social media wise, but realistically, I do not believe that we can ever completely control what our children are seeing and ultimately exposed to on social media. And while we can maybe change small things here and there, overall, the idea that those changes are the remedy to the problem is way too simplistic and basically impossible. I do believe, however, that when we offer our children from a young age, the proper tools with which to support their own self-confidence and self-esteem, and how to question these skewed and erroneous types of messages, as well as how to live comfortably in their own unique and beautiful bodies, social media will have less of an influence and hold over them. Currently, there is a lot of negativity surrounding how we should approach our body and self-image. We are told that the messages we are being given are bad, wrong, and harmful to people who live in different body types. Certainly, this may be true and while we can choose to be angry about these messages, ultimately anger breeds more anger which has little constructive outcome.
A more positive and constructive strategy is needed then to support our children, their self-esteem and self-confidence. We must institute programs in our schools from a young age, that support our girls in this way, educate their parents and their educators in how we can bolster this objective. Programs must be instituted that are designed specifically to increase self-esteem, self-confidence, body positivity, and reduce the focus on outward appearances. By helping our children find positive ways to appreciate and live in their bodies, while concurrently educating and promoting healthy behaviors and habits, we will strengthen our children from the inside out. Social media only works from the outside in. And we cannot rely on removing or altering every negative influence that may occur, because as quickly as you can eliminate one, another will crop up. This doesn’t mean we should stop trying to remove these clearly unrealistic and negative influences, rather it just means we have to attack this epidemic from every angle possible!