By Roya Juhlin-Dannfelt
The “thin and fit” beauty standard has been around for decades. We all know that the media in general disrupts the idea of beauty in teenagers still today. In a way, it has become a sort of “common knowledge”.
Less known: the extent of the effect of social media on teenagers today.
Most teenagers spend approximately nine hours using some form of online media every day, encountering several posts encouraging an unrealistic body ideal. Bombarded with edited pictures, this mischievous, toxic mirror permanently changes the perception of attractiveness in the eyes of several teenagers to something unprecedentedly unrealistic.
Looking in the mirror today, many young girls see the “flaws” of their body. Why don’t I look more like her? Why does my stomach pop out like that? Why do I have acne when she doesn’t? Feeling comfortable with their body seems an impossible task.
They feel pressured to have a “perfect body” and try to get it by any means possible, whether it’s excessively exercising, starving themselves, or a combination of both; 30% of 10-14 year olds are actively dieting and 50% of teen girls use unhealthy weight control behaviours such as skipping meals, smoking, and vomiting.
ChildLine is a British organization in which children in the UK under the age of 19 can contact and speak to a counselor. According to ChildLine, they have gotten more than 10,500 online inquiries and calls from teenagers struggling with food and weight-related anxiety. They believe it to be attributed to several factors, including the increased pressure of social media platforms, on which peers and celebrities define attractiveness. Suo Minto, head of ChildLine, stated that “the 24/7 nature of social media places huge pressures on our children and young people which in turn can lead to significant emotional issues”.
Tallulah Wilson: a gifted ballet dancer, experiencing low-self esteem early on in her short life, was only 15 when she threw herself in front of a train. Before her death, she visited pro-anorexia sites and posted images of herself self harming on social media platforms. She wrote about thinking she was “fat” and “ugly” in her diary, and according to her mother, Sarah Wilson, social media was the cause. Mrs. Wilson said her daughter “was in the clutches of a toxic digital world where in the final few weeks” she could no longer reach her.
Tallulah didn’t deserve this. Nobody deserves to feel like they aren’t beautiful enough to be alive. Nobody deserves to feel like they need to skip meals or throw up the food they’ve eaten just to fit an unrealistic ideal. Nobody deserves to look in the mirror and dislike what they see because of a body standard tattooed into their minds.
Everyone deserves to live a life without feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. A life without the pressures of social media and worrying about looks. Sometimes, a good old-fashioned “I love you just the way you are” can stop this killer from consuming more victims.
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