Essay: Pressure for perfection on social media not a pretty sight

By Shawn Flythe

Social-media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter can have a negative effect on women’s self-esteem, pressuring them to reach an unattainable level of perfection.

Take, as example of this “fake-perfect,” the classic plus-sized shot we’ve all seen. You know the picture: An upturned gaze that serves to both hide a double chin and emphasize the figure. This is not what the girl looks like in person.

Some students at the U School in North Philadelphia described beauty on the internet as flawless; some as deceiving. “You could never win,” one 16-year-old said. “They want you to be one way; then, when you are that way, they want you to change.”

“It hurts, because we as woman know what it feels like to get hurt,” said a school aide, 22. “Because women in general have low self-esteem. That’s why we try to put on makeup or have the best clothes. As women, we feel like we are in competition with each other, so when another woman puts you down, it’s like … now we have to try harder.”

According to NBC News, the average teen spends nine hours a day using electronic devices. Personal social-media stats — including number of likes, friend requests, followers, and retweets — have become an artificial source of validation.

“On social media, certain people could be so chill then they adjust themselves so they can be noticed,” a student, 17, said.

Instead of being an outlet for self-expression, these social-media platforms carry high expectations. When a young woman posts a picture that means a lot to her personally, but doesn’t get the attention she expected, it can become a letdown.

“I feel disappointed,” a 14-year-old girl said. “Why would I post it if I don’t get a lot of likes?”

Once we’ve acknowledged the problem, now what?

“Start collaborating with magazines, because in a way they are starting these standards and they should change diversity,” a 16-year-old girl said.

“Make commercials about how beauty is in everything,” a 16-year-old boy suggested.

We should “change the standards; make it so women don’t have so many standards that they do now,” a 17-year-old girl said.

The only way to feel beautiful is to know it in your heart. Despite what everyone else says, you have to wake up and remind yourself: “I am beautiful.”

I won’t let anyone else define what my beauty is.

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