Likes this. Like me?

Curator's Note

 

This is a good one… no, this one! No. I look fat. God, if a profile picture ever screamed, “Loser.” But wait, I look totally hot in this one! Bingo.  

Alright all you Facebookers, sound familiar?  

A few months ago, the Girl Scout Research Institute released a study demonstrating that teenage girls tend not only to downplay their intelligence online, but also embellish their sexy and fun-loving qualities so that they seem more attractive. Girls with low self-esteem were more likely to do this and admit that their online images didn’t match their real life selves. 

Researchers at Stanford University also released a paper recently suggesting that people who use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis underestimate how often their friends feel negative emotions. This is because their friends, are, in fact, underreporting negative emotions and experiences online. Plus, people tend to inflate the positive experiences they read about. According to the researchers, these misperceptions can lead people to feel more alone and dissatisfied with life.  

Teenage girls, just like the subjects in the Stanford experiments, are especially prone to exaggerate what they perceive as the positive experiences of their friends. And, naturally, they want in. But how do teenage girls determine what’s positive? On Facebook, it comes down to feedback — the pictures, status updates and comments that everyone “likes.” What a crazy night. Likes this! Pic of Jason and me, awwww! Likes this! New bikini I got for the beach. Whataya think? Likes THIS!

Peer approval will always be important, but it’s especially top of mind when you are a teenage girl. When you perceive that others are getting positive peer feedback, it’s logical to consider how you can get some of that feedback yourself. 

The early sexualization of young girls started way before the advent of social media. But is social media providing a new threat? At an age when self-discovery is at its peak, the “branding” of online profile pages with selected images and anecdotes of the “crazy” and the “sexy” can make it even harder for young girls to determine what is real, and, in turn, decide how they themselves want to be perceived.

Comments

Laura Beth Daws's picture

 Cool post discussing a

 Cool post discussing a not-so-cool issue… as if teenage girls needed another thing to worry about, or needed more body image issues to deal with. I’m sort of fascinated with this absence of negative emotions aspect of social media. The very structure of Facebook, for example, preventing facilitation of any negative comments, and the surrounding social norm that makes negative responses taboo, speaks to an interesting cultural phenomenon. I wonder if it’s making us more dishonest, or less likely to communicate negative emotions in face-to-face situations, since we’re getting "trained" to communicate positively online? 

Either way, very insightful post addressing something that’s sure to be problematic for this generation of girls. 

Alyssa Vetro's picture

Getting trained

I also find that fascinating… I think we definitely are getting "trained" to communicate differently, and I think a lot of that has to do with the feedback part of social media. We all want feedback, so we are more likely to post thoughts and pictures, etc. that elicit the feedback we want. You’re right, this can lead to dishonest communication - or at least not 100 % honest communication. This would be totally fine if people had other outlets to express their "true selves." But I fear that, especially for the younger generation, social media is it. 

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