When Social Media Turns Sour

Without a doubt, social media is a fantastic tool which is now seen as fundamental in society. However when in the wrong hands,  the boundaries between what’s real and what isn’t become blurred…

This is something I’ve wanted to write about for a really long time however I seem to have kept putting it off at the fear of dabbling in such a controversial topic and not getting my points across in a way I want them to. However, my little sisters are now experiencing the negative side effects of social media and in conversation with them, I feel like I can’t NOT talk about it.

Before I start slating social media, it’s important to say that on the whole, I think social media is a wonderful tool and provides a fantastic platform for individuals and organisations to share their thoughts, spark discussion, start a movement or promote their service. Social media does and will form an integral part of my career as a creative, a journalist, a writer or just an individual, working in the media, on the whole. I just feel that as I was born into a generation that was on the brink of experiencing a digital phenomenon I’m able to see how the digital world is expanding and affecting future generations even more than my own. (Does that make sense?)

Basically, as a child, my entertainment revolved around colouring books and role play and when I wasn’t riding real horses, I was in the garden for hours pretending mine and my brother’s bikes were our pet horses that I was quite happy taking care of all day. Now, I’m 19 and have 3 siblings at the age or under the age of 15 and find it incredible how different their entertainment is. I didn’t have a phone until I was in year 9 and even then it wasn’t a brand new one, and to be honest I couldn’t be bothered with pay-as-you-go so I hardly used it. Nowadays, my siblings have iPhones and iPads and lots of different devices which forms the basis of their entertainment – I totally understand that times have changed and we’re experiencing a digital takeover but I feel that they are the most vulnerable when it comes to the negative effects of social networking.

There are all different types of difficulties when it comes to understanding the effects of social media however in this case i’m referring to young teenagers, and girl’s in particular, being saturated in false advertising, photoshop and celebrity sponsorship plugs all resulting in girls not feeling good enough.

My sister, who’s 15, messaged me this week expressing that she’d got upset at school as a result of spiteful girls in her year group who had been calling her names behind her back and mocking her social feeds and referring to her as a ‘try hard’ when it came to her Instagram feed. I immediately was confused and had a look at her feed. Okay, so she’s got almost 1,000 followers however hardly any photos. Her photos are everything from a photo of our grandparent’s dog to the necklace I got her for her birthday, chucked in with a couple of selfies – pretty standard stuff.

I then had a look at the feeds of the girls who had been at the root of her upset and was flooded with pictures of Snapchat filters, mirror selfies with hardly any clothes on, selfies with more makeup on than I own, dodgy drawn-on eyebrows, trashy push up bra’s under tight vests and expensive trainers and products the average adult wouldn’t own, god help their parents – harsh of me, I know, but let’s not forget these girls are 14 or 15. Laughing at these girl’s calling my sister a ‘try hard’, you can imagine what I was thinking…

Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram, but I do find it interesting how people can become so obsessed with follows and likes and being accepted by their followers. There’s a lot more to the story however this is is the main idea I got from my sister’s upset. These young girls are clearly drowning in HYPER-REALITY:

“…an inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality, especially in technologically advanced postmodern societies.”

I studied online personalities and social media at college and have been interested in the topic ever since, and now more than ever. It frustrates me when people are so blinded by images of people and lifestyles that are unattainable and unrealistic to the average you or I. I know that whenever I scroll through Instagram, I see pictures of ‘relationship goals’ soaking up the sun on a luxury holiday in the bloody Maldives or young women wearing thousands and thousands of pounds worth of clothing and accessories, spending every day in expensive locations, soaking up the material world.

Something that REALLY gets me, is when ‘influencers’ or celebrities plug the most BULLSHIT (sorry) products. For example, chewy sweets that make your hair longer, or lotions that give you Kardashian-esque curves or herbal tea that makes you shed half your body weight in an unhealthy length of time. These products are cleverly distributed amongst well-known online figures that have a very large following and influence over young teens, girl’s especially. They get away with the posts stating that it is a, #ad, in the caption – this is done by law. Something to inform followers that they are being paid to promote the product. If you know what that means then you can take it with a pinch of salt however for young girls like my sisters are more likely to feel shit about themselves and purchase products that Kylie Jenner apparently uses. In conclusion I feel,

Influencers have a lot to answer for when it comes to promoting products that fuel insecurity amongst young girls who strive for the unattainable and unrealistic. Capitalising off of naivety is bullshit.

I’m sure I could go for ages about this, but that’ll do for now.

Thanks for reading!

A x

PS: Below are three posts I put on ‘Instagram Stories’ to prove a point after my sister told me about her situation. Thanks to analytics, I know that the nasty girls did see them.

Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 21.13.48       Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 21.13.56     Screen Shot 2017-05-06 at 21.14.04

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