Is the addiction to our apps becoming too much?
Growing up in the 90’s consisted of a Nokia 3310, polyphonic ringtones, staying out till the streetlights came on, Myspace and knowing all the words to Wonderwall. Fast forward to the early noughties and suddenly we are immersed in a digital age with teens becoming more tech savvy than most adults and reliant on social media. From communicating with our friends, to posting photos of what we had for lunch, sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have become part of most people’s daily routine. With 95% of teens having access to smartphones it’s little wonder they have become the pinnacle of the younger generations existence.
Age of the selfie
With so much emphasis on self-image, in particular teens, are finding an enormous amount of pressure to look flawless and appear to have the perfect life. Gone are the days of disposable cameras, photos are no longer a pile of blurry images of your best friend’s elbow, and the accidental coffee cup; they are planned, contrived and could be one of many attempts in the strive for the perfect selfie. With a vast array of reality stars documenting their luxurious lifestyles through a series of carefully, digitally, manipulated images. Perfectly curated selfies and apps that host a variety of filters encourage, in particular the younger generation, to feel an obligation to keep up - Body image for young girls has always been central to their self-esteem. The way a girl looks or feels she looks can have a huge impact on her life and her choices. Our online persona is very important in how everyone sees us, likes can give us a sense of validation.
Social media sites have created an easily accessible platform for comparison among girls.
It is also an easy opportunity for bullying; cruel comments, stalking, body shaming and sexual exploitation are just some of the ways teens are tormented online.
Some sites even use suicidal thoughts as a selling point which all plays on teens vulnerabilities. They use self-worth and depressive thoughts to promote suicidal tendencies by giving tips and encouragement. Unfortunately, sometimes they aren’t noticed soon enough which has led to several teenagers in the truly tragic headlines recently for taking their own life which some may say is a reaction to the pressures and abuse of the online mania.
There is not yet a specific cyber bullying law, but recently these types of behaviours are beginning to be recognised - with Instagram in particular offering help if the word 'suicide' is searched for more than twice. The problem with cyber bullies is it’s easy for people to think they can get away with it just because they are behind a screen. Hopefully this will all change!
Mind over matter
According to the charity, Young Minds, there has been a 15% increase in suicides among young people for a variety of reasons, social media being acknowledged as one of the detrimental factors in teens lives. These alarming figures are a wake-up call as to the potential risks of the internet and the continuous exposure to social media.
However, mental health organisations such as Mind offer an outlet and support for anyone suffering emotionally. There is a greater awareness and less of a stigma attached to anyone seeking support.
Despite the dark side of the internet there is an upside. The readily available access to everything... whether it be support, being able to find others who have been through similar situations, for insight and advice, the ability to connect with friends more easily and not lose touch with people, or just watching Saved By The Bell episodes on Youtube. Many people can also find inspiration, take the Gymshark enterprise, Ben Francis and some friends started with an idea of their own gym clothes and began screen-printing their designs in a garage. From small beginnings they were catapulted into success after using social media to become an established brand through word of mouth in the online world. Similarly James Gould, co-founder of Skinnydip Ltd, credits his online following on social media for helping to ‘build the brands profile’.
So, the two sides to the internet; the darker web, that breeds negativity insecurity and bad decisions. Then there’s the side that inspires, informs and relates people to one another. Really it’s about how it’s used by every individual person. You can put a filter on your selfie but you can’t filter life.
Written by Claire Exley