It is certainly worth considering how the tools of social media have inaugurated and reinforced techniques for reinventing our identity, disguising it or even consenting to no identity whatsoever; because “when we step through the screen into virtual communities, we reconstruct our identities on the other side of the looking glass”.
For young people, who already have so much to think about and deal with in the real world, the added confusion of who they truly are is bound to have a negative impact on their development. Of course, there are two sides to every story and as teenagers see their digital devices as an extension of their bodies, they can often feel more comfortable with their virtual lives than their real ones; perhaps as a result of being able to be whoever they want to be. For shy people and introverts the Internet “offers the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship”, because they do not have to suffer hectic environments to talk to people. It has become a space where they can safely and controllably speak their minds, constructing their ideal self, without feeling nervous or uncomfortable. This, however, does not mean that they are safe from the precarious power of social media and all it has to offer.
It will come as no surprise to my readers that magazines and televisions are often held responsible for illustrating deceptive depictions of an ideal body image that causes people – particularly young girls – to question their looks and lose confidence in themselves. Mainstream media often inspires restricted definitions of what it is to be a girl or a boy and how they should look and behave – gender stereotypes which are now making their way onto social media. “The sexualisation of Western culture, in which a well-defined body image plays a role in popularity, can often be a negative force in an adolescent girl’s development”, particularly as exposure to such a narrow view of what is defined as ‘beautiful’ has changed the way in which people think and feel about their own bodies.
Teenagers and even young adults should educate themselves about having a healthy body and learn to accept themselves for whom and what they are; they should be taught to appreciate and respect their own classifications of beauty above all else.
If you are a teenager that uses social media yourself, or a parent that is concerned about your child, you may find my eBook ‘The Dangers of Social Media‘ of interest. I expand on these notions of Identity and Body Image in some depth, as well as other potential issues that can arise from online activity. These topics include stalking, sexting and cyberbullying.
You can find my book available to buy here.
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 Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, (Orion Books Ltd, 1997) p 177
 Sherry Turkle, Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, (Orion Books Ltd, 1997) p 30
 David Buckingham & Rebekah Willett, Digital Generations: Children, Young People, and New Media, (Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Inc., 2006) p 179