|T-shirt sold at zazzle.com|
I see more of them every day. Especially this week when I had one son and one daughter enter the world of social media. I have dreaded this event for years. I tried to prolong it as long as I could, until I couldn't prolong it anymore. Because social media, while fun, comes with responsibility and stress. Lots of stress. Who to follow, what to write, what to post, how it can be misconstrued, how to rectify it and when to sever on-line relationships and real life ones. And everything in between.
But it's hardest on girls.
It just is.
The need to look picture perfect 24/7 because everyone has a camera nowadays and at any moment someone could take a photo of you and blast it into the cybersphere for everyone to judge. And they will. And they do. It's human nature. This of course feeds the insecurities all of us have, but especially teenagers who are just starting to figure out who they truly are. Am I skinny/pretty/witty enough? Why didn't someone favorite my photo? Doesn't anyone like me? Why? What's wrong with me? And which sex is more prone to over think these kinds of things more than the other?
Last month I read the book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano. Who can tell you the differences between what it is to be male and be a female more than a person who has been both? The thing that really struck me in her story was not the physical transformation, but the emotional transformation that began soon after taking estrogen. Flowers looked more beautiful and smelled more fragrant. Not only that, she noted that she felt everything deeper, as if a veil were lifted from her emotions. See? We females are biologically programmed to be neurotic over thinkers.
It's not our fault!
Blame our hormones.
Probably the worst thing you can give to a neurotic over thinker is constant access to beautifully filtered photographs of how happy other people appear to be on social media. Because who takes ugly, unhappy looking photos and posts them? No one. And I'm saying all this because of course, I have social media accounts. And I will tell you right now, I'm guilty as charged. And recently I have made a very concerted effort to try to reduce the amount of time I spend on them.
Because there is a direct correlation between time spent on social media and depression.
What can we do as parents to ensure that our kids, especially our daughters, don't succumb to the low self-esteem that can occur as a result of social media? I wish I had a step by step plan guaranteeing we could all keep our kids safe on the internet. But of course I can't. And, cutting our kids off entirely isn't a realistic option in this day and age. However, getting them involved in sports and keeping them busy with real life activities they enjoy is. Thus, naturally reducing the amount of time available for social media. But, here's the pill that's probably going to be the toughest to swallow as parents, monitoring our own social media use and the signals we're really sending our own kids is also vital.
Not to mention all the double standards.
For more on teenagers and gender inequality here's another post I wrote, titled Sexual Equality.
P.S. Would it be poor timing to announce that I'm now on Instagram @misadventures_of_marie?