Everyone in 2022 is familiar with social media and its various options. It has shifted from a distraction for teens and young adults as well as a way to keep in touch with people into a daily activity for many people. Social media is an escape for most, to visit different places or learn something new. Distractions are good, and we all needed some during the pandemic, but has social media become a crutch? Are we ignoring our real lives in order to experience a different, virtual life?
One of the pitfalls of social media is the presentation of life as something it is not. This can be through the use of filters, photoshop, and outright misleading posts of activities, people, and statuses that are not what they appear. Some might say that teens have experienced this in the past with magazines and the rampant photoshopped portraits of models and celebrities. But magazines were not in our face daily, on our phone or laptop, in such an abundant amount. Additionally, filters on social media platforms allow you to see the person interacting in the environment which gives a false sense of accuracy which a flat, two dimensional picture does not always achieve. As a parent, you have to ask yourself: What influence will this have on my children and more so my teenager? Will these distortions of reality affect their own body image and set unrealistic goals for what their bodies should look like?
The best way to counteract the world of social media is to discuss these topics with your children. Show them realistic pictures, point out when something is fake or misleading, and discuss the impact all of these aspects can have on the person in the photo or video but also the audience. Parents should also help children develop a healthy relationship with their body through talk of balance in their meals (not a diet or extreme restrictions) and being active on a regular basis throughout the week. Conversations should be around “what are we doing as an activity this weekend? Hiking, swimming, etc.” and “our plate looks best when it is a balance of vegetables, protein, and grains.” This will shift the conversation from body appearance to health through balance. With a good sense of what healthy feels like, children can develop the ability to discern when something does not seem realistic.
Michelle A. Culver, LMFT