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Recently, I was shopping in Victoria’s Secret and, let’s be honest, we all look at those monster-size photos on the wall and think, Ugh, I wish I could look like that. But as quickly as I thought it, I heard a little voice pipe up from behind me: “Mommy, that’s the body I was telling you I want.” As I turned and looked, my heart sank. It was a little girl all of about 8 years old, pointing at a model on a poster in an island of lace thongs. What on earth is happening in our society where a child is worried about what kind of body she has?
The Scary Side of Social The self-harm and suicide rates of teenage girls has increased exponentially over the last decade. And while there are numerous factors that contribute to these unfortunate behaviors, social media may be one very obvious reason — studies show, that at the very least, it increases anxiety in young adults.
Just think about how undeniably social media sends messages all day long that you’re not beautiful “unless” — unless you’re thin, unless you’re contoured, unless you have perfectly groomed eyebrows, unless you have no cellulite, unless you have big breasts. Ever since our culture has begun to immerse itself into scrolling, double tapping, swiping right and feeling either better or worse about ourselves based on the number of “likes” we get, our little girls are learning that whatever they currently look like isn’t enough.
Blurring the Lines Between Fiction and Reality Have you noticed that social media influencers suddenly have more pull than pastors, parents, siblings and teachers in this world? They can say “buy this,” “try this,” “be this” and “like this” — and people do, often without question.
As a woman running a business on social media today, I am abundantly aware of the term “influencer.” Where pro athletes and pop singers were our idols in past years, YouTubers and bloggers are the superstars today.
But here’s the dilemma: Much of the content you see isn’t real. Filters, waist cinching, face smoothing, changing eye color, photo editing, undergarments — the list goes on and on. All these things are public facing and therefore we see them as truth. Fabricated humans are responsible for influencing our youth, causing them to hurt themselves on account of believing they aren’t beautiful, or special or worth it. Frankly, I can’t think of anything worse.
Finding and Following the Truth Social media has the opportunity to bring women together out of likeness. “Your struggle is my struggle, your truth is my truth” needs to be the mentality rather than painting a completely unrealistic picture of what you hope people believe is true. Too often we are comparing our pajama days with an influencer’s “sunset heart hands” and feeling like we don’t measure up.
Real influencers create change with the truth. They show off their flaws, they admit their mistakes, they show vulnerability and share their struggles. We are starting to see trainers and models pose in unflattering ways to prove they also have stomach pooches, and mommy bloggers share what spending a day with a toddler is really like. They understand that perfection is an impossible ideal to live up to and realize the harmful effects of putting up the façade of perfection to their followers. They respect the “power” they wield as an influencer and try to use their “power” for good — to make a positive contribution to society.
Ladies, we all sit on the couch with popcorn or ice cream, scrolling the ‘Gram and feeling terrible about ourselves — all of us. I hope that as time goes on, more female influencers come to the table with the bravery to be honest. The truth is not for the faint of heart and only the strong ones can carry it. So let’s all commit to celebrating honesty and, if you have the guts, posting it, too.
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