The Downside Of Social Media For Women And Girls

Posted on September 18th, 2014 by Melissa

SocialMediaWebTalking about something you saw on Facebook has almost become a social norm. Whether it’s your high school locker partner’s first grandchild, or you daughter’s third grade BFF’s wedding, social media has transformed the way we communicate with the larger world. Facebook is a great way to keep up with one another and Twitter is a non-stop conversation that you can step in or out of at any time, but what about the downsides?

Social Media Can Have A Negative Impact On Women

Just as social media offers an opportunity to inform, unite, and inspire us, it can also hurt us and tear us down. A recent article in Huffington Post by Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. perfectly illustrates the negative impact that social media can have on women and girls. Weber points out that there are limits to what social media can positively provide, and how women who don’t understand those limits may struggle in several ways.

Facebook Is Not An Emotional Support Network For Girls

One thing to understand up front is that social media is not an emotional support network. As girls mature, they want to be liked and Weber writes that they often feel like if they are not perfectly pleasing they risk losing connection with people. Sites like Facebook and Twitter provide a broad stage for girls and women to try to people-please, and the vast amount of content and opportunities for empty interaction has the power to put the most vulnerable women on a merry-go-round to nowhere.

Posting And Sharing Is Not Validating In The Real World

Weber also debunks the myth that posting and sharing will bring validation. Think about that for a minute and ask yourself, “What kind of validation are we talking about?” I think any of us can agree that positive recognition feels good, and girls in particular really work hard to be “liked” by all. Social media provides a huge platform for us to get the attention we crave by the way of “likes” and “comments” on Facebook or Instagram. That validation can light up the brain’s reward centers and for some people, that is euphoric. The thing to remember is that validation coming from social media is really meaningless. Not only is it temporary and fickle, it isn’t well thought out or sincere. Online validation is usually just a quick “like” and doesn’t carry the meaning or intention that a kind word or offline social interaction can bring. In fact, many “likes” aren’t remembered after that quick click of the mouse. That’s why it’s important that as women we recognize that, and teach young girls to be aware of it too.

Social Media Isn’t Real

We all know how to put our best foot forward, and social media provides a platform for us to showcase our biggest and best accomplishments. Personally I don’t know too many women who stop to photograph the trauma of their middle-schooler’s broken heart or the devastation of aging parents, but they will document every moment of a professional accolade or European vacation. It’s important that we empower women and young girls to not put too much stock in what they see online. Facebook is our own personal reel and if we compare our lives to others we won’t have to look too far to see someone with a better body, higher achieving children, a hotter boyfriend, more impressive academic accomplishments, and sexier vacations. It’s like an endless stream of self-promoting Christmas letters. Bottom line, there is plenty of material on any social media site to support a negative self-appraisal and too much of that can easily lead to depression.

We Need To Celebrate Social Media For What It Is

We need to celebrate social media for what it is, a great way to connect, to empower, and to lead our sisters to equality! At no time in our history have we had the ability to connect on such a global scale and share events in real time. Social media has the ability to bring positive transformation to every corner of the globe, if we can avoid getting caught up in the downside.
To read more about what Weber has to say about the myths of social media, and learn how we can protect ourselves and all women and girls, go to Huffington Post.

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