The Internet is forever. –Ferb, from Phineas and Ferb
Time recently published an article regarding social media and its impact on American girls. The contributor, Nancy Jo Sales, is the author of a new book, “American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers,” which she wrote after talking to over 200 girls throughout the United States.
I haven’t read the book, but found the article is very intriguing. Her discoveries in talking to these girls shed light on the dichotomy between the girls’ desire to have as many “likes” from racy photos as possible versus feeling like they were being swept up in the pressure of over-sexualizing themselves.
Sales writes, “The tweens and teens I spoke to were often very troubled by the ways the culture of social media was exerting influence on their self-images and their relationships, with both friends and potential dating partners. They were often highly aware of the adverse effects of the sexualization on girls—but not always sure what to do about it.”
I believe women ultimately want to be treated equally, and with respect. We want to be recognized for our unique gifts, talents and personalities. But many of us also enjoy the immediate gratification of being recognized in a moment, by anyone who might not otherwise notice us. Can we have it both ways?
Sales also discovered that many girls had suffered from cyberbullying. “Girls are most often targeted in cyberbullying attacks that focus on their sexuality.” Is the risk of cyberbullying, or our photos getting into the hands of the wrong people, worth the risk?
Many ride the wave our culture has taken, and feel surprised when they find themselves washed ashore due to unexpected results. The tide can change, but it is going to take individual choices to do it.
Subconsciously, we hope we get the “likes” from one group, while still enjoying respect from another, and we trust those groups will stay in their separate and proper places. But there is no guarantee of that separation. What if we destroy the respect we are seeking, and are written off with assumptions made about the type of person we really are?
Girls want their voices to be heard, but sometimes we try to impress without our voices; instead, we call attention to ourselves with silent images, leaving the viewer knowing nothing about who we are as individuals.
I believe it can be more gratifying to use social media to express our creativity instead of publicly sharing a favorable angle of ourselves. I think it worth taking the time to assess the risk of negative long-term impact on ourselves. If we don’t like what we are doing, the best choice is to hit “pause” and ask the question of whether or not it is really worth it.
The risk of sending racy photos includes the potential of our lives quickly taking a dark turn. We need to remain alert and aware of social media’s power to draw us in, inviting us to look for satisfaction in a place where it cannot be found. The reward of being selective in what we publish is that we have a chance to express who we are as individuals, while not being anxious about which secrets might fall into the wrong hands.
“Lights, Candace, Action.” Phineas and Ferb. Disney Channel. 3 Feb. 2008. Television.
Sales, N. (2016, February 22). How social media is disrupting the lives of American Girls. Time, 26-27.
Posted on Tue, March 1, 2016
by Wendy Beukelman, Executive Director