Stell’s Stories: Social media stigma

Everyone+is+unique.+Don%E2%80%99t+allow+your+uniqueness+to+be+scrubbed+away+because+you+are+trying+to+tap+into+becoming+someone+who+you+are+not%2C%E2%80%9D+Ashley+M.+Williams

Photo courtesy of Andrew Stell

Everyone is unique. Don’t allow your uniqueness to be scrubbed away because you are trying to tap into becoming someone who you are not,” Ashley M. Williams

Andrew Stell, Features Editor

For teenagers, body image is a very fragile thing, and many can relate to the pressure society places to become picture perfect for someone else’s Instagram feed. Of the negative impacts, eating disorders, anorexia, suicide and depression rates have all risen at an alarming rate; a scary price to pay for something as simple as connecting with others. Being one of the first generations to grow up with social media, I relate first-hand to the tainting effects of ‘likes on a post’, as body image shifts away from a personal level. Removing the capability to like posts can prevent the scary statistics brought by social media.

“An eating disorder treatment center in Chicago revealed that 30-50% of its teen patients used social media as a means of supporting their eating disorder,” Project Know, said

To open this anecdote with a past tense would be a crude understatement, so instead I begin with: I struggle. From when I became aware of the world around me, I feared it. I was always the smallest boy in my grade, and with that title came the common clichés associated with it. I was bullied, teased and prodded by the biggest bully of them all, myself. I would stand in front of the mirror and quickly turn away, repulsed by the mural image I faced. As I grew up, I hid my insecurities under anything I could, changing the way I looked, stopped trying in school and changing my personality. Naively I thought a young and fragile boy as myself was capable of having a social media account. I downloaded Instagram in the fourth grade, and relentlessly scrolled; I would look at all the people I wished to look like scrolling and praying that someday, I would look like them. Hopelessly I waited and waited for the change “I deserved.” That day never came. Watching the live count of how many likes my post gained ruined my childhood, forcing me to be scared of anything people disliked.

While surface level intentions for an app like Instagram are well described, an app that allows friends and family to connect via pictures on a feed, but upon deeper digging into the world of a social media app, a truth with no mercy lies. With instantaneous capabilities to see how much people like you, this is all too easily accessed by those who need no comparison to others. The vulnerability of a user is immediately amplified when a live count of those who ‘liked’ your post is at the fingertips of a user. Though Instagram has expressed their consideration of removing the capability to ‘like a post’, this philosophy is lived through other apps with similar profiles. Instead of the original intent to connect and pull users closer together, social media ostracizes those with less likes, followers and comments on their posts.

This further emphasizes the ongoing issue of ideal image and ruins the truism that a unique society thrives upon the task of creativity, as little boys and girls around America learn quickly to mimic those with more likes and followers.

Though I would like to consider myself immune to the effects of social media, I find myself time and time again returning to the comfort of my follower count. Still before posting a picture I ask to myself: ‘will this make my followers happy?’ When utilizing a mindset like this, you begin to live not for yourself, but for the people you seek approval from. The proposed solution to remove liking capabilities proves to lessen the negative impacts of social media by abolishing the constant reliance on outside opinion, therefore forcing users to rely only on their internal body image.