Saturday, May 30, 2020

InstagramÔÇô Instagram who is the fairest of them all?

BY MPHO KUHLMANN

Every day girls are determining their self-worth from Instagram likes, Facebook posts, Snapchat images, advertising videos and texts from friends.

Dr Sethunya Mosime. Senior Sociology lecturer at the University of Botswana says “Today’s girls do not know a world without social media. They are learning how to form and navigate relationships in an entirely different way than previous generations and we ÔÇö the adults in their lives often lack the tools to support and educate them effectively. This is a new and different landscape that we must understand in order to equip girls with the skills they need to manage the challenges and pressures that they face. Parents and teachers play a critical role in how a child views themselves. Teach them to make positive statements about themselves. Instead of posting an image that’s fishing for compliments, encourage your kids/students to make positive self-statements. Everyone wants to be accepted, and there is nothing wrong with that. The children of Generation Z may place too much emphasis on a social culture driven by virtual “likes.” As adults, we need to help them understand that their self-worth is not a reflection of those likes.”

But then Dr Mosime and many who share her thoughts are swimming against the tide. In today’s evolving society, there is no denying that pop culture, media and entertainment has a significant influence on its audience, especially the youths who are still impressionable. It is everywhere we go. When we turn on the television, some company is marketing a new brand of clothing that is “the next best thing.” In magazines geared towards teen readers, nearly every other page is filled with a photo shopped image of a model advertising a line of cosmetics that is sure to make us feel “prettier” and “happier”.

Like Dr Mosime observed, today’s generation will never know a world without social media in it. There will be no learning curve for Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat for their generation. Most of them already have every social media outlet mastered well before they reach high school age. But of course, with great technology comes great responsibility. And the burden of social media on teenage girls especially is a heavy one. For some — especially girls, what starts as a fun way to document and share experiences can turn into an obsession about approval that can wreak havoc on self-image. We live in a world now where social media impacts how girls think, feel and act and in as much as it is good/handy for keeping in touch, social media seems to be doing more harm than good ÔÇô psychologically especially for young women.  The “Felt cute, might delete later” trend is a sure indication that lot of girls get bullied and are made fun of on social media. In fact, a large portion of girls delete posts if they don’t get enough likes Sharing a cute picture of yourself and not getting as many double-taps as your friends feels harsh to a lot of girls/women and their self-worth is deeply affected by it.The boom in selfie culture is a rise in competitive spirit, as well as a disturbing trend of sexualization. Likes, hearts and swipes show that ┬¡validation is only a tap away. And one of the easiest ways to get that validation is by looking hot since sex sells, whether you’re 13 or 35. Olefile Tlhabiwe who works at BTC in Gaborone says “the sad truth is that people mostly share the positive things about life on social media, without showing the negatives. This really affected me when I was struggling with my mental health and would constantly scroll through Facebook and Instagram. Seeing that everyone was happy and enjoying life made me feel so much worse. In fact, it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. Why was I feeling so different to everyone else?”I think it’s important for young people to look up from their phones and focus more on the world around them, and the amazing connections that they can make there.”

Kgomotso Jongman of Jongman Pyschotherapy in Gaborone says “Comparing yourself to others can only bring you pain. While it may seem that everybody else’s life is just fabulous while you are the only one struggling through it, deep down you know that isn’t true. Everyone looks smart, happy, fit and living it up judging from the posts that they make to their social networks, but isn’t it exactly the point of social media sharing? Some brave souls will talk about their struggles, but mostly it’s a medium that allows people to show the rest of the world the best of what’s happening. You’re often looking at a tiny snippet of their reality without any context. You can’t and mustn’t compare everything that you are to what is essentially a collection of carefully selected self-advertisements. Women shouldn’t let social media rule their lives and decide how happy and healthy they are. They need to remember that they are more than their online persona and they should embrace and celebrate that.”

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc. all revolve around posting content, which is then liked, shared, and commented on by other users. Therefore, people are constantly updating their social media accounts on a day-to-day basis. With issues of mental health and mostly depression worsening in both young men and women, females are having thec worst of it. All of the Twitter retweets, Instagram likes and Snapchat stories put pressure on them to be pretty, interesting, fun and cool. Validation, on the other hand, is arguably the most significant reason why female teens and young adults post photos online. They’ve captured a moment, and now they are putting themselves out there so the whole world to see. In return, teens are seeking instant positive feedback or approval in the form of likes and comments. can Selfies best explain validation. Many selfies are posted with filters to enhance the image and passive aggressive text designed to encourage people to provide positive feedback.

Thulaganyo Bosele a retail assistant at Mr. Price Home in Gaborone had this message”: “girls/women seeking validation in any external way is a bad practice. It goes beyond social media. Too often, people, men, women, teens, practically everybody all look for ways to validate their existence. Getting praise from teachers, friends, and parents is the obvious first stage. The problem with social media is that you can quantify appreciation. 1000 friends is better than 500, 200 thumbs up on your photo is better than five. Everyone tries to gain validation through these metrics. Not only that but many people become competitive with themselves and others. What’s wrong with me now? I only got 500 likes. Am I not pretty anymore? What do I need to do to get more? This leads to social media users upping the ante. How can you be more outrageous, sexier, more revealing? It’s the same with any kind of popularity contest.” 

Bonang Dintwe is a student at Ba Isago and she says “Women often seek validation from others. And that’s largely okay because they are women. There is some expected level of that. However, I think if a girl seeks too much validation it is a clear sign of insecurity which can be bothersome and troublesome down the road. Pressure to be socially accepted and celebrated can be too much to handle, and can adversely affect the self-esteem of many social media users.”

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Sunday Standard May 24 – 30

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of May 24 - 30, 2020.