A significant problem that today’s youth continue to face is social media. Social media on its own does not contribute to problems, but rather the manner in which its being used causes problems.

For instance, today’s youth view social media posts that portray a high standard of what “beauty”and “success” is. The content itself is not the problem, but the way the youth of today perceive and compare themselves to it, this unattainable image. As grade ten student Astha Hardat eloquently explains it, “Teenagers are very dependent on people's opinions and with social media involved, it is hard to avoid comparing yourselves to others. There are so many cases where teenagers are influenced by people who are hiding their flaws [...]. Teenagers are still developing and when we see comments and posts that have a clear image of what “beauty” and “talent” is, we start to feel self-conscious. It's hard seeing so many people who look ‘perfect’ in our eyes and not start to feel [or look the same].” Teenagers are often susceptible to outside influence; constantly molding and evolving as a result of external factors. Their actions and the person they become is often a reflection of what they see and experience daily. This is why teenagers feel the need to be surrounded by positive social media influence.

According to the Pew Research Center, 49% of teens in the USA have reported that they post their accomplishments on social media. 45% of teens say they often or sometimes post selfies on social media, with 16% saying they do this often.

People can express their love and appreciation for things such as their social life, family, and accomplishments on social media. However, what raises concern is the way youth lacking these basic needs  may feel or respond to these posts. Oftentimes, these social media posts can manifest insecurity or inadequacy about their social life, family, appearance, or even their accomplishments. According to Bbc.com research from the The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences indicates that, “exposure to idealized representations of peers on social media elicits feelings of envy and the distorted belief that others lead happier, and more successful lives.”According to Science Daily  a survey of 227 female university students, a majority of women reported that they tend to compare their appearances negatively with their peer group and with celebrities on Facebook.

The idea of only one pathway to “success” and “beauty” is often what viewers on social media perceive. This can inflict feelings of insecurity in them. Youth need to change their mindset regarding the concepts of these terms so that they do not have to adhere to social media’s standards to feel fulfilled. People must recognize that their strengths and weaknesses differ from others, and hence so do their outcomes. Every person’s passions and morals vary, and so will the life they choose for themself. Youth must develop what is called a “respectful disregard.” As Jon Butcher, a freelance multimedia producer, explains the term: “We respect everyone’s right to live the way they want to; however, we’re going to create our path.”  A “respectful disregard” allows people to distance themself from social media’s influence, and work towards creating the most authentic and unique version of themselves. If people do not acknowledge this concept, they will be unable to appreciate and divert their attention towards creating success in areas they are passionate about.

They will be adhering to social media’s standards and “living someone else’s dream” if they try to imitate another person’s version of success.

It is fine to acknowledge the posts of others, and appreciate their “success” and “beauty”. However, what lies underneath that social media post, must take precedence in the eyes of its viewers. Often, personal growth, perseverance, and individuality (the traits that contribute to one’s success) are overlooked. Individuality, and not being subjected to social media’s labels and standards, is what amounts to people's best selves. This is why it is important for youth to take in the whole picture when they view such posts. They must give regards to the factors that contributed to their “idols” success, as opposed to comparing themselves or feeling envious. Look towards others' work for inspiration and guidance, and apply what you learn towards your own success.

For the youth of today, who hope to filter social media’s presence from their idea of “prosperity” and “beauty” you must learn to appreciate the unseen factors of someone else’s “success” while having a “respectful disregard” for them.

While opening your mind to external and positive influences, remember to not replicate the ideas and visions of others. Focus your attention on self-discovery and improvement, so that you can receive clarity on what you truly are passionate about.

Channel energy towards your endeavors, and acknowledge with patience that “success” will take time before it reaches the surface, but in time it will. Youth must remember that they do not have to comply with social media’s standards to be “beautiful” or “successful”. “Beauty” and “success” demand individuality, and come in various forms, and at different times.


Sources:

https://www.jonandmissy.com/

https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2018/11/28/teens-and-their-experiences-on-social-media/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170306092742.htm

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190311-how-social-media-affects-body-image