Looking Beyond Your Online Image
Our YoungMinds blogger shares her thoughts and offers some advice on dealing with on online pressures.
As a young teenager, your online image is as important if not more so than your actual presence; which is why online pressures are so much more consuming in your youth. As we get older we get busier. Facebook profiles become more about documenting travel and achievements, keeping in touch with old friends and reminiscing than the artificial excitement we experienced online when we were younger.
From the age of fourteen I’ve experienced mental illness. I used to spend my evenings in a darkened bedroom listening to emotive music because that’s where I felt safe. It wasn’t just the four walls that gave me security or the lyrics that soothed me; it was the online world of quotes that I immersed myself in; which helped me to escape. As a writer, I’ve always found comfort in words so it made sense that when I felt desperate I turned to Pinterest and read emotive quote after quote. I became addicted to the ones I could relate to. I don’t blame Pinterest for my suffering, but I was an impressionable fourteen year old girl wearing her vulnerabilities like a delicate bracelet too big for her wrist. The quotes on Pinterest understood me but they were not inspiring. They spoke of darkness and self hatred and for someone with depression it is the only language they understand until they can get help.
I’m nineteen now and I’m still sickened by how much the internet pressures young people. Today’s fourteen year olds have grown up far too quickly, causing their confidence to waver. Lunchtime conversations about the best camera angles to create six packs and where to put the Snapchat text to hide your flaws are among some of the tips exchanged between young people.
Why we have an obsession with looking like something we can’t realistically achieve is beyond me.
The fact that young people are aware of how unrealistic these images are does little to sooth my irritation. What good is it- to be aware of the fakery of it all when the feelings of anxiety and low self esteem are all so real?
With social media becoming an essential part of a teenager’s world I worry about how far people will go to airbrush the very things that make us human.
As human beings we are programmed to eradicate imperfections rather than embracing them. The internet is just a way of highlighting those imperfections by broadcasting what they think ‘perfection’ looks like. Just like the emotional, painful quotes I became addicted to reading. I immersed myself in them so that I too could feel beautiful.
I am grateful for my experience with mental illness because it has made me the person I am today: stronger, confident and empathetic. But if you have found yourself in a similar position, in need of some advice, this is what I would tell my fourteen year old self:
Right now nothing is more important than your life in school and online. But try to look forward because there are so many things that will happen in your life; job opportunities, new countries... having a family. And it is experiences like that which will build you yourself confidence, not the amount of followers or quotes you read.
Its okay to take time to find what it is that makes you smile but when you do, cherish it because it is that which will last forever- not your profile picture or the fashions.
As we grow up, we are self conscious enough as it is. We may already have low self esteem and increasing anxieties and we don’t need internet pressures to reinforce these feelings.
The pressure we already put on ourselves is enough, don’t you think? So post pictures as they are and tag your friends regardless of how their nostrils look or how noticeable their lazy eye is because that is what it looks like to be human.