As I eat my breakfast in the morning I give Facebook a cursory read, then I don’t check it again until after dinner. I don’t care who likes or shares a post or picture, I use it to keep up with faraway friends and family. I post pictures on Instagram and forget about them. I’m not in it for the likes but for the filters that make the photographs of an amateur look great.
In a bid to get under the skin of our teenage girls I’ve spent today immersed in the world of social media. And ith as been hard!
I’ve spent a lot of the day responding to the beeps of my phone calling me. I expected texts and emails but instead I found Facebook posts, comments and likes, as well as Twitter reposts and favourites. These constant interruptions are an annoyance, but not as much of an annoyance as discovering I’d not got nearly as many likes or reposts as I’d have liked!
Out of 400 FB friends only 5 of them could be bothered to like my carefully structured, taken and posted selfie.
At one point I looked at the clock and it was 11.40am. I’d done nothing for almost four hours but faff about on Facebook, witter nonsense on Twitter and strive to take the perfect pic for Instagram that I could then repost on both Facebook and Twitter.
While WhatsApp pings pierced the quiet far too often – I don’t care if you’re drinking coffee in a hipster café in London just like my pic!!
“19% of girls aged between 13-23 say they have kept checking their account for likes, as a result of not getting enough likes for a photo.” Dove Self-Esteem Project (DSEP)
I’ve realised I don’t like these popping up pings. They drive me nuts and make me anxious as I wait for the next one. They invade my real life forcing me to stop in the middle of writing an important letter, pause the news, put down my coffee and pick up my phone because I cannot ignore the call of the ping.
I know now why I keep my notifications turned off – I like to be in control of when I see who has posted or responded online.
“The average girl takes 9 photos before putting one picture online and 69% of girls with low body confidence avoid posting photos of themselves if they don’t like how they look.” DSEP
When I’m not at work I don’t wear make-up but today to keep up with the picture ready teens I invested half an hour of my precious at home time making up my face and doing my hair. After all that work I spent God knows how long finding the best place in the living room to get the best light for my selfie shots. Turns out in front of the window with the sun streaming in on me was just right.
“The average UK girl receives 24 likes on a photo. In fact, they would prefer 5 times this number to feel validated.” DSEP
I posted a couple of these pictures on Instagram this morning, so far they’ve got only four and three likes and it’s 3.45 in the afternoon.
I put five selfies on Facebook at around the same time with the hope that I’d at least get 24 likes. I watched the notifications desperately all day. In an hour they’d got between 3-5 likes each. By lunchtime I was feeling quite inadequate as the likes grew to a mere six apiece with the same people liking every photograph.
What’s wrong with my pictures? Why don’t more people like them? Why is it always the same people who like them?
By 4pm this afternoon I remained disheartened. My selfies hadn’t managed to get anywhere near the 24 likes I wanted: one got seven, another nine, and one managed 11, with the other two receiving just 14 and 20 likes respectively. And all of them managed to raise just one slightly different comment on each one but from the same mad auntie who comments on everything I put on online.
I feel quite despondent this evening. One comment? Nine likes? What did I do wrong? Why don’t people like my selfies? What is wrong with me?
I’d no idea how the power of likes could impact upon my sense of self.
50% of girls say they are using social networks ‘all the time’.” DSEP
I’m a grown woman, nearly a middle-aged woman who should know better but those likes are like a drug dragging me in, feeding the feelings of inadequacies we all have, amplifying them and negatively changing how I see myself.
If I’d got 50 likes today I know I’d be feeling something akin to euphoria tonight. As it was my rather low likes dropped a black cloud of despondency over my head making me feel old and inadequate, making me consider how I view myself – am I actually looking as good as I think I am?
This exercise has left me with more questions (about myself) than answers. But the one answer it has given me is that is hard to be a teenage girl in a world where social media rules everything. When I was at school all I had to deal with were the ‘mean girls’ but I left them behind as soon as I went home.
Nowadays girls are always switched onto the contrariness of the likes and comments of other teenagers. It cannot be good for their self-esteem or their mental health. It definitely wasn’t good for mine.
“24% of 13-23 year olds have said they would rather receive 50 likes than a hug.” DSEP
The #NoLikesNeeded campaign was launched by Dove at the Women in the World Summit in London on 8 and 9 October to encourage girls to realise the only like that counts is their own.
The Dove Self-Esteem Project is the global sponsor of Women in the World and the exclusive sponsor of the new girl-focused platform ‘Generation Girl’.
Together their ambition is to help inspire and encourage young women and girls to recognise their potential, pursue excellence and be undeniable by showcasing real role models for real girls.
Parents, teachers, mentors, etc., can download educational tools carefully prepared by the Dove Self Esteem Project. The tools are designed to help boost self-esteem and increase body confidence in young people. You can download yours at www.selfesteem.dove.com
Here are some quick tips from Dove on how to talk to your daughter about navigating social media and the negative feelings it may bring:
- Talk about how easy it is to become ‘addicted’ to checking for updates on likes and how things can change.
- Have a conversation about the reality of people’s lives compared to what’s posted online. Explore the difference between ‘edited highlights’ and real day to day life.
- Do other people in the family spend a lot of time online and on digital devices? It might be helpful to include them in these discussions.
- Create a home social media agreement that all family members sign.