So yesterday I was taking part in a challenge, one set to me by the Dove Self Esteem Project. I had to take on the social media routines of a typical 13-23 year old girl for the whole day. So by doing so, I could have a glimpse at the kinds of pressures and feelings that my daughter, and girls like her, face on social media. With a daughter who is just 13, and having all of this in front of her, I was very keen to be involved with the campaign as I hoped it would help me (and therefore share with you) what I had come up against.
Dove has worked out on average, how and what these girls post on social media. So I was going to try to follow those same rules, in order to get a real feel for it. Firstly I choose to use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp as my four networks. Apparently that’s on average how many a 13-24 year old uses within a day. I had Facebook and Instagram as my two main ones, they would remain in the background all the time. I wasn’t allowed to turn them off all day.
Now on average, girls of this age group post 35 photos to Facebook and 29 to Instagram a week, so I needed to post 5 images on Facebook, and 4 on Instagram yesterday. Eek, everyone is going to be sick of me by the end of the day was my first thought. I would never post photographs that many times a day, well maybe if I was on holiday? Again, as this is to be as close to an average girls account I needed to post at least one selfie on each of my main two platforms. This was going to be a challenge!
Me and my 13 year old Nia.
Most importantly, what the evidence shows, is that the girls are not happy with their image in real life, but prefer the ‘prettier’ one of themselves they portray online. They are chasing likes, and if they don’t get them, well that’s what makes them sad. Poor body image is a real thing in children of this age, and something that is really effecting them.
So the day started off a little differently, as we were running a little late. I managed to take a snap of photo of me in the rain, well my shoes anyway.
Because I knew I was chasing likes; I needed 50 in order to get a hug (I had to refrain from hugging anyone in my family until I hit a magic 50 likes on my photographs) I tried to play it clever, choosing things I knew would get more interaction, like nature and flowers, hence the leaves. This one got 71 likes in the end. Tick!
Moving on from this, I needed to conquer Facebook. Hmm, this was a little trickier, as I knew I would struggle to get as much interaction. So I set myself a challenge, and told Facebook I was going to take a cheap bunch of flowers to brighten up my office. I wasn’t lying, I was going to do this, it’s just to be honest, I don’t share my day in that much detail ordinarily. However if a girl is posting that many time, they really are documenting everything in their life.
So I took photo, and posted it on Facebook.
I was frustrated then, it got some interaction, but not as much as I hoped, with 6 comment and 12 likes. I then posted the photos of the finished results in my office, this did better, with comments and likes on all three photographs…still not 50 though!
Ok, so I needed to do some selfies now. On average girls spend 12 mins prep, before the take a photo. So out came the make-up bag, the straighteners, my usual (when I’m writing) jeans and a casual top were replaced with a dress and jewellery. I’d already had to tidy my office for the other photographs, now this! It was all proving to be harder work than I imagined. I took and retook selfies ( 9 is the average with girls) until I found one, I was happy with. I even used my selfie stick!
I was also using Twitter and WhatsApp whist all this was going on. WhatsApp was constantly bleeping away with new messages, and I couldn’t work out how to stop it making so much noise! I felt like I was on some kind of treadmill that wouldn’t stop!
I then got some help from my husband, and took another of the selfies, for Facebook this time, I even re-applied my make-up!
I go so many likes and comments on this one, and I genuinely did feel boosted reading some of them….
So glam – why aren’t you in your P’J’s?
You make my heart swell with pride, beautiful x
What a lovely office!
My heart just skipped a beat!
It was mixed emotions though, why was other people’s validation of how I look so important to me?
Throughout the day I was checking how many likes, answering comments on the many photographs and messages. I felt on edge all day, and completed distracted, I found it hard to concentrate on anything else, if I’m honest. I went to a friends house for coffee, and even mid-conversation found myself checking my phone.
Later, I also needed to take a selfie, where I really didn’t care what I looked like, a quick snap and post it. 69% of girls with low body confidence avoid posting photos of themselves if they don’t like how they look. I didn’t edit it at all. It was at this point, I realised, I not only didn’t want to post it, I was embarrassed by it. So quipped about how I didn’t like myself in this photo. Urgh, I was seeking validation wasnt I?!
So what are my conclusions, after spending a day on social media this way, and doing everything that an average girl would be doing?
I think I’m quite a self conscious person anyway, but I found myself even more so as the day went on. Were people judging me? What do they think about me? These were the questions that were involuntarily popping up in my head. I was really starting to understand how likes and interactions from people, somehow would make me feel better about myself, and the more I was seeking it throughout the day, the worse I was craving it. I was also tired, exhausted to be honest, I’m on social media a lot anyway because of my work, but I think because it involved my emotions made me even more tired.
At Dove, we believe no girl should be held back from reaching her full potential. However, anxieties over appearance stop girls being their best selves, affecting their health, friendships and even performance at school.
For more than 10 years, we’ve been helping young people with self-esteem education, reaching 17 million of them so far. Join us, and help reach even more.
Now I am social media savvy, but if there is one thing I could recommend to other parents, it would be that before you allow your children to be on things like instagram, familiarise yourself with them, and join them too beforehand. This experiment has taught me that it’s not just about guarding your children from trolling or getting upsetting comments from friends, it more than that, and well that’s saddened me.
Women In The World – Generation Girl Summit which takes place on the 8-9th of October. Dove UK are sponsoring the inaugural Women In The World: Generation Girl summit in London this week. Helping to shine a spotlight on self-esteem issues and building solutions together. Whether you are a parent, teacher or a mentor, there are some great tools on THIS link which are said to be proven to boost self-esteem and increase body confidence.
Useful hashtags to follow the project:
This was a paid campaign.