Currently a member of Parent Zone's operations department, K is an aspiring writer & spoken word artist.
The Domino Effect
Copying influencers’ choices - whether of restaurants, clothes, or holidays - can make everything online start to feel like a competition. You may not want to compete, but somehow you find yourself caught up in a cycle of trying to keep up with people you don’t know and will never meet - and also with your friends, who are doing the same thing. Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tiktok, and the personalised ads that come with them all show perfect bodies, perfect smiles and perfect hair. Young people who are trying to figure out who they are and who they want to be are particularly susceptible to the idea that we are improvable.
Great as these platforms are for making connections and expressing who you are, brands use them and the influencers who excel on them, and who have global networks of fans, to promote such things as lip fillers, butt lifts, laser treatments, and veneers - all of which are expensive and unnecessary, although they can start to feel as if they are if everyone else you know is enthusiastically embracing them.
I admit that I have often been persuaded that I have to have whatever is ‘in now’ for fear that otherwise I’ll be looked down upon. I have often been on Instagram and found an influencer who had similar hair texture, facial structure and body-type to me. I was insecure enough about how I look that I would sit for hours scrolling, and comparing myself to the images online.
I didn’t care if my friends and family complimented me: it’d go in one ear and come out of the other. I lacked a sense of my own identity. I felt lost. At some point, I realised I had to change this and develop a healthier relationship with social media. It is an ongoing mental journey.
In conversations with young women aged between 15 and 20 about how social media affects them, it’s noticeable how many of the girls and women I know are fascinated by Kylie Jenner, who recently gave birth at the age of 20. One girl typically said about her ‘everything about her life is goals!’ (meaning she aspired to her own life being the same as Kylie Jenner’s).
Young women who don’t have the same resources now want to have children at the same age as she did. I know of more than one young woman who, directly or indirectly influenced by her, has done it.
Meanwhile, the popularity of Brazilian butt-lifts and lip filling surgeries have hit an all-time high. I frequently see or hear teenagers talking about getting their ‘BBLs’’ & lips done as soon as they hit 18. The surgeries have become so normalised that young women see them as a milestone.
There is definitely an obsession with constantly looking perfect before posting a picture, hence the use of apps such as Facetune, Airbrush & Perfect365, which have features that allow you to edit photos to make yourself look slimmer, thicker, lighter/darker as well as several other options for people who may not be able to afford surgery but who still want to fit in and look as though they have had surgery. Some users will completely change their appearance to fit this idea of ‘perfection’. Sometimes they get verbal abuse on their posts from others who know what they look like in person. Sometimes girls are accused of catfishing, a term that originally referred to people posting fake profiles, because they change their pictures in a way that is thought by their friends to be unrealistic.
Dating or befriending people making 'fast money' through music, drug dealing or committing fraud becomes desirable largely because it allows young women to access enough funds to maintain their online image - even at the risk of being manipulated to carry out various illegal or unsafe tasks, such as storing something illegal in their home. Often, you hear girls say ‘he takes care of me’ but they don’t admit what compromises they have to make in return.
If you take a close look at most hashtags on social media, you can see that there are new checklists being created for you every day, and a constant race to have it all, right now. It takes a lot of self-confidence to withstand this bombardment of images of an idealised life, even though in reality it’s barely possible without the resources of the influencers. Girls and young women get very little help to resist this.
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