By Parker Reed, Staff Writer
In today’s society where social media is always looming, children are losing their innocent childhood. “Why can’t I stay outside for five more minutes?” used to be the normal conflict between mother and child, but over the years the plea of a child has been transformed to begging for Instagram. But what children don’t realize are the pressures that Instagram puts on young teens to grow up “too quickly” by setting unrealistic expectations.
“Most influencers don’t respect or acknowledge the power they have over young girls,” says social worker and therapist, John Reed.
Instagram’s pressures have been exacerbated over the last few years because of the rising trend of “Instagram models” or “Instagram influencers”. People only seem to care about keeping up with the latest trends or getting a few hundred likes. Influencers don’t realize that when children and teens see their posts, they look up to them, and it can be detrimental to their mental health. It used to be just the fashion magazines that were in grocery stores, but now it’s everywhere, in their hands all day long, everywhere they go.
It’s difficult not to glance at your own Instagram profile and doubt yourself. Is the stuff you’re sharing relevant? Is your profile appealing to the eye? Should I delete this photo because it hasn’t received more than 200 likes? These are all questions Instagrams users are asking themselves.
”I think there’s a whole shift away from communicating in person, and I think that generations that are 8, 9, 10, now, texting or talking through apps has become almost their preferred method,” Reed continues. “And I think in some instances, that it’s an easy way out. You don’t build a lot of character that way, you don’t have to face some really difficult conversations, eye to eye, and maybe the other way around. I think there’s something that can be gained from having a conversation in person.”
Instagram is a social media site that can make teenagers feel lonely and isolated. They may be coping with online bullying or DMs from strangers and are too ashamed to discuss it with others in person, so burying their feelings seems to be the best option. Teenagers are developing unhealthy ways of dealing with emotions by concealing their feelings and attempting to cope by themselves. When confronted with an uncomfortable scenario, they will always revert to that strategy since that is what they have been groomed to do since the age they first got Instagram; they become creatures of habit.
”As a ten year old, I put a subconscious idea into my head of the perfect body, and the way I wanted to look, and it has grown with me,” stated Flavia Drazek, a sophomore at New Paltz High School. “I’ve started to realize the negative aspects that come with social media, and that it wasn’t realistic, and it still isn’t. To have the body of an idealized 18 year old or 24 year old.”
”As a ten year old, I put a subconscious idea into my head of the perfect body, and the way I wanted to look, and it has grown with me”Flavia Drazek
Youth, particularly those aged 8 to 12, may find it difficult to recognize that not everything they see on Instagram is real. Filters and picture editing can drastically alter a person’s appearance, leading to a longing for unattainable perfection. It may also erode a child’s self-esteem and cause them to become obsessed with their appearance. “I am glad my mom doesn’t let me have Instagram because I want feel confident in myself and not be compared to celebrities,” says Rachael Tompkins, 10. The use of certain hashtags, such as “#thighgap” or “#skinnyinspiration”, on Instagram can make kids question their self-worth, leaving them feeling insecure or unsure of themselves. With 92% of teens going on Instagram daily, the percentage of kids feeling these negative influences is going to be very high.
“I can see the effects social media has on my friends because whenever we go shopping they compare their bodies to influencers they see on instagram,” remarked Rachael Tompkins, a 10 year old. “They feel as if they aren’t pretty enough, since they don’t look like the models on social media.”
Now with Instagram for Kids on the rise, people need to start recognizing how social media is stealing the next generation’s childhood. Young kids can no longer go to the mall with their friends without feeling the ghost of Instagrams pressures- a feeling which should not be familiar to anyone, let alone young children.
Instagram has altered the way that people grow up. It’s a place where you can show off your best self, even if that self isn’t a realistic depiction of who you really are or what your life is really like. It’s an endless stream of carefully curated images, sans all of the imperfections and flaws in peoples’ everyday lives. The app sets unrealistic standards for what you should look like, how you should live, and how you should spend your time in general. It’s come to the point where people are willing to go anywhere merely to acquire a decent photo for their Instagram feed. People no longer do things for the experience but rather for show.
Young girls and boys should not feel as if their lives are being dictated by Instagram, as if they have something to prove to their peers and followers. No one should have to feel the pressure of social media constantly scratching at the back of their mind. The normal, responsibility-free childhood will never be the same if the ways of Instagram don’t change.