Opinion: Social media squashes self-esteem

By Kimberly Gray
Martinsburg, WV

Waking up, I got dressed for school in a new outfit I had bought the day before, a black-and-white striped shirt with black distressed jean shorts. I felt cute.

At school, my friends complimented me on my outfit. It wasn’t everyday that I tried to dress nicely.

As the day wore on, I was feeling good. During math class, I snuck into the bathroom to take a quick selfie. I scrolled through my Instagram, and suddenly, images of cute outfits promoted by women who have the “perfect body” flooded my feed.

Girls with unblemished skin, flat stomachs, amazingly long legs, no cellulite, no back fat, the list goes on. The more I scroll, the more attractive these features seem. The more I want to be like them, to be perfect.

I look into the mirror.

Suddenly, everything seems wrong with my outfit today. The stripes are no longer my friend and instead work against me, enlarging my waist. Emphasizing that I do not have a flat stomach, that I do have back fat.  

Looking downward, I instantly regret wearing shorts. For now, I have exposed the cellulite on my legs. My stomach then twists when I realize that if I have noticed all these flaws, maybe other people have too.

No longer do I feel the same confidence about my outfit. Now I feel hatred: toward my outfit, toward my body, and toward myself for thinking I actually looked good today.

This is a common problem for girls all over the world. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 72 percent of women have some sort of social media. And, as journalist Kate Fagan wrote in a May 2015 ESPN article, “Young women growing up on Instagram are spending a significant chunk of each day absorbing others’ filtered images while they walk through their own realities, unfiltered.”

When average, everyday women cannot achieve the Instagram ideal, their self- esteem suffers. According to behavioral scientist Clarissa Silva, “60% of people using social media reported that it has impacted their self-esteem in a negative way.”

For instance, Hannah Carpenter, an 18-year-old girl, was found dead in the woods of her hometown in Cornwall, England. She had committed suicide because she could not obtain the “perfect body.”

Some may say that in order to stop the decline in self-esteem, women should just simply get offline. Images on TV and magazines, however, would still persist.

Perhaps, instead of trying to escape, we need to recognize that we are the ones who have control. This filtered reality is, in fact, filtered. It ignores the diversity and reality of real women. There is no “perfect.” The beauty is in our differences.

Remember that black-and-white striped shirt? It’s looking pretty cute.


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