A form of media that is becoming increasingly more popular each year is social media. These online platforms allow people of all backgrounds and ages to interact with one another all around the world and according to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 74% of all American adult Internet users interact with social media sites. Another Pew Research Center study claims that 71% of all American teens with a mobile device use one or more social media sites on a daily basis. This is an extremely large portion of the American population that uses these social platforms so it is important that people are informed of the dangers that can come along with using these sites.
Social media can be especially harmful to one’s self-esteem. A research study was conducted with 7th grade girls to relate media-internalization of the thin ideal to social appearance comparison and eventually, to body dissatisfaction. The results found that media-internalization leads to comparison which then leads to body dissatisfaction (McLean, Paxton, 2015). If girls or women are already influenced by media’s ideal body image then social media platforms give them more people to compare themselves to. If people that girls or women see on social media look like the models that they see in magazines or on TV, this can be very harmful. Since anyone can use social media, it can feel like everyone on social media is an average, everyday person. If the “normal” people that women see on social media all look like models, then they are more likely to think “if that woman I saw on social media is normal and looks like that, why don’t I look like that?”. Social comparison can take a huge toll on one’s self esteem. If a woman compares herself to someone that she sees as an average person, but in reality that person is actually a paid model planted in the middle of a social platform, than the woman will begin to think less of herself for not being like that model. If young girls are constantly looking at bikini models on Instagram, they might begin to think, “if I lose ten pounds, then I can be like her and make a living off of wearing a bikini”. These girls might not know that extensive photo-shopping and editing went into the photo and that 100 photos were taken to get the right shot. It is important that the older women in their lives can recognize the fake, superficial aspects of social media and pass this knowledge on to young girls.