Informed Families Blog

The Social Media Pressure to Be Perfect

Posted by Informed Families on September 16, 2021 at 11:45 PM

Teens have always had issues with self-esteem. The captain of the football team, the head cheerleader, and the “in” crowd were present long before social media came along.

The problem with social media is that teens can be led to believe that everyone else is as perfect as their images look on their screens and that they are the only ones who aren’t. They know all about filters and Photoshop, but still think they’re the only ones with flaws, or what they think are flaws.

Unrealistic images

It’s called “the selfie effect,” and many plastic surgeons have noticed.

“This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy,” researchers wrote in an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s (JAMA) Facial Plastic Surgery.

They noted that photo retouching technology can trigger dissatisfaction with one’s appearance in real life, possibly even leading to the development of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), a mental health condition that leads a person to obsess about a minor flaw in the way they look.

The opposite problem has been dubbed “duck syndrome,” describing the way a duck seems to glide across a pond while underneath its feet are paddling furiously.

Psychologists at the Child Mind Institute warn that carefully edited feeds showing what appear to be happy, well-adjusted kids can be a smokescreen, hiding such issues as anxiety and depression behind a “digital curtain.” Then teens can feel like failures or fakes when they don’t measure up to their on-screen image.

Balance the feed

The answer, psychologists say, isn’t taking away the phone. It’s helping your child see that the images they see in their feed aren’t real.

This means:

  • Listening to what your teen says about what she sees on social media.
  • Asking probing questions, like “What do you think has been cropped or edited out of that image?”
  • Letting them know that it’s okay not to be perfect and that everybody fails now and then.
  • Periodically unplugging as a family, maybe on weekends or after a certain time at night, to model a healthy balance with social media.
  • Trusting your instincts. If she’s posting happy, smiling pictures of herself but doesn’t seem that way in real life, encourage her to share her feelings.

The epidemic of drug use and teen suicides means that we as parents need to be on the lookout for red flags that might signal hidden issues with our teens.

Topics: self esteem, teenagers, teens, social media

About Us

We teach people how to say no to drugs and how to make healthy choices. To reduce the demand for drugs, Informed Families has focused its efforts on educating and mobilizing the community, parents and young people in order to change attitudes. In this way we counteract the pressures in society that condone and promote drug and alcohol use and abuse. The organization educates thousands of families annually about how to stay drug and alcohol free through networking and a variety of programs and services .

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