Social Media’s Impact on Girls

Today, social media makes obsessing over edited photos much easier due to the array of applications available. Social media editing tools claim to erase blemishes, whiten teeth, and even make you look 10 pounds lighter. Individuals are going to extreme lengths to obtain the perfect Instagram post. However, often times, these photos are not true depictions of one’s self. Consumers of social media are having an increasing difficult time distinguishing what is and isn’t real.

What Young Women Face Today

When I was in high school, the only social media platform available was AOL messenger. Therefore, my online friends, filters, and followers didn’t define my identity, unlike in today’s world. (I don’t envy girls growing up in today’s society.) Social media’s reach and the ability to post filtered and edited images have left today’s teenage girls increasingly cyber-bullied, trolled, and ultimately more body conscious. The Pew Research Center reports that among all Internet users, 40% have experienced harassment online. 66% of Internet users who have experienced online harassment said their most recent incident occurred on a social media platform. No wonder social media users are afraid to portray their true selves.


Social Media Deflates Self-Esteem

Along with harassment, social media is completely deflating young women’s self-esteem.  Dove recently conducted a social media survey and found that 82% of women feel the beauty standards set by social media are unrealistic. Additionally, three quarters of women believe social media comments critiquing women’s beauty are destructive to their self-esteem. We live in a society that hopes for “likes,” but when it comes to the self-esteem of today’s young women, it seems it’s difficult for them to “like” themselves. Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a clinical psychologist who specializes in social media’s impact on teens and tweens, explains that there are numerous things that young women encounter on social media platforms that may influence their self-esteem.

These include:

  • Positive or negative feedback to her posts.
  • The number of “likes” she gets on a post and how quickly those ‘likes” are received.
  • How many followers she has, with the goal of having more “followers” than people she is “following.”
  • How often she gets positive “mentions” and is tagged in pictures/posts.
  • How often her posts/photos are “shared” for positive reasons.

Overall, social media has a large impact on young women’s self-identity. Tweens and teenagers are no longer solely impacted by the airbrushed images in magazines or on billboards that illustrate society’s “ideal” woman. Now, however, it’s their friends and peers in their newsfeeds appearing to have the perfect lives using filters, captions, and the perfect angle to present a mere perfect image and lifestyle. The root of insecurity is comparison – the idea that they need to keep up with one another.


From Classrooms to Newsfeeds

“The popularity contest that high school has always been has sort of migrated onto social media,” Nancy Jo Sales, author of the book American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers. For example, social media “likes” are perceived as a form of acceptance and not “keeping up” can hurt a young girl’s self-esteem. Teenagers can have thousands of “friends” online, but that can leave them exposed. Never have teenagers known so much about their friends’ lives including how they look, what they eat, what places they frequent and who they hangout with. Ultimately, they are seeing the world through a filter, and that’s not healthy.

Standing Up and Revealing the Truth

Fortunately, companies are launching campaigns to bring awareness to the issue. In 2015, Dove launched a campaign called #SpeakBeautiful, which encourages women to “realize the role our online words play in impacting our confidence and self-esteem.” Additionally, bloggers, social media celebrities and models are raising awareness by telling the truth about their posts. Many have come forward and admitted to using filters and posing in such a way to make them look thinner. Essena O’Neill, a former Instagram model, re-captioned the posts she left up on Instagram to reveal the lengths she went through to make certain shots look perfect.


Essena O’Neill took over 100 photos in similar poses just to make her stomach look good.


Essena O’Neill took over 50 selfies and then edited it using several apps.


  1. Great post in raising awareness for such a big social problem in our society today due to social media. Social media has a lot of psychological impact on gender roles with the images being portrayed out there. It gives people an “ideal” image that they are supposed to be without taking into account the truth being the posts that you mentioned and understanding these platforms help perpetuate a growing image problem through a filter.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your post about a huge problem in today’s society. Interestingly, just a few days ago, I was reading an article about a girl who, many people believed, was having a negative impact on young girls, particularly with her influence on their body image. Parents and other members of the social media network were actually protesting that her Instagram and Facebook were removed from public access- and, more shockingly, thousands of people signed the petition! This is just one example of how influential social media can be. It is amazing how likes on a picture can often times determine how you feel about yourself and your level of satisfaction with your own life. Do you think at some point these social media sites will become so influential that people may no longer find full satisfaction in their own lives or has this already happened? Overall- very interesting post- enjoyed reading it!

  3. Nice post! Back in middle school I remember we talked a lot about these issues in health class and about how magazines and models created these unrealistic ideals for girls that were rather unhealthy and ended up leading to a lot of girls having poor self-confidence and even some to become anorexic or bulimic. Now with social media there’s yet another platform out there that features these perfect seeming people with perfect seeming lives that adds more pressure and expectations for young girls (and boys) to live up to. It’s nice, though, that there are people out there like Esenna who show people that it’s so easy to fake having a perfect life online and that what you see isn’t necessarily reality.

  4. bishopkh1 · ·

    Great post! I’m really impressed by brands who push “natural” models to wear their clothes and pose for their ads. Aerie does a great job of not retouching their models, and has put pressure on several other players in the industry to do the same. It’s definitely a huge issue and hopefully as more consumers demand that brands stop promoting women who have unrealistic body types, the issue will improve.

  5. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Fantastic post. For all of the great things that have come about due to social media, this is no doubt one of the biggest issues and I’m glad that you’re bringing awareness to it. No one should have to feel pressure to present an image on social media that isn’t themselves. It good to see that celebrities are taking notice and raising awareness as well.

  6. Awesome post! I’m currently taking a Gender Roles class in which we talk about the portrayal in media, and I think while improvements are being made in terms of honest depictions, we still have a long way to go. There is an interesting study done lately investigating the shift of our glorification of skinny super models as opposed to the fashion clothing that they are modeling. I think social media both perpetuates and propagates this shift in fashion focus.

  7. daniellep2153 · ·

    Great Post! As social media platforms have become more integrated into the lives of kids today, I have definitely noticed a shift in what kids wear these days. When I was growing up, I wore whatever my mom put on my bed that day. Looking back at old photos from elementary school, I can honestly classify that time in my life as my awkward stage. Today, these small kids wear outfits that are nicer than what I wear. They all constantly look at their friends Instagram accounts to see what they should look like and what outfits to wear. Because of social media, there is a lot of extra pressure for these kids. Unfortunately, as social media shifts and grows, these types of pressures will just get worse.

  8. I really loved this post and the message you shared. Also, I agree with you! I would not like to be in high school right now. My little sister is currently a sophomore in high school and the social media craze among her and almost anyone of her age began way back in middle school. You are correct in stating that they are “no longer.. impacted by the airbrushed images [that] illustrate society’s “ideal” woman. Now it’s their friends and peers in their newsfeeds appearing… perfect.” This type of insecurity is so much worse. As airbrushed celebrities were always something of aspiration to former generations, there was no real threat or emotional connection because they were almost fictional in everyday life. But having your closest friends or all the “prettiest” girls in school posting perfect pictures in your feed every day sets a whole new standard and a while new set of insecurities. The aspirations turn into competition and the need to be perfect on social media goes beyond just filtering and fining angles. My high school (the one my sister attends) has had to send over 3 girls to get help for anorexia in the past year. This is more then the 2 girls that were sent over the past 10 years prior. Social media is beginning o affect the generation below us in scary ways, as their digital identity gets blurred with their real identity and their concerns of appearance rise to an all time high. Great post, so insightful, relevant, and necessary to discuss!

  9. Tyler O'Neill · ·

    Awesome post! In high school I was a member of the eating disorder support group and a lot of our conversations were centered around social media. Social media provides a unique opportunity for us to share our life experiences with each other. However, since people have become famous through social media and it has become profitable for users, the prevalence of anxiety and depression surrounding social media has increased. Hopefully we will be able to overcome this issue as a society by addressing the social stigma and changing how we perceive women as a society.

  10. Awesome post! I really appreciate you brining attention to this topic. I noticed that you had a lot of comments, but this is something I feel very strongly about, so I knew I had to read it. I totally agree with everything you said. Social media has put some much pressure on girls to fit a beauty standard that honestly isn’t real or obtainable. As much as one tries to resist these influences, they are all around us. We get brained wash to think that if we don’t take an instagram looking beautiful at some party then we didn’t have a good time and people won’t think we are pretty and fun! I watch my roomies take 100 selfless before we can even go to any party or event. I feel like people put more effort into the instagram picture of the event than on actually enjoying the event itself. I feel like this has gotten out of control. Women should not have to feel this pressure ( a lot of it comes from other women, not men) from anyone, but it is a very real issue that has been propelled by social media. The question now is, what do we do about this now? Raise awareness is defiantly a good start, but girls who have grown up thinking that this is the standard to live up to will end up being nothing but disappointed. This must stop.

  11. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Such an important topic. Being a teenage girl is hard enough in the physical world. Having everyone’s comments “memorialized” on social media can be devastating. It’s difficult not to compare when everyone’s “lives” are on display. I’m not sure how we can combat this unrealistic body image when many brands / actresses / celebrities are promulgating the selfie sensation. I also remember Dove’s beauty campaign that tried to use a variety of women in advertising. Another great aspect of that branding was when they compared a self described picture to a picture described by friends. The variances were drastic. I hope that talking about this issue can draw attention to the fact that this trend is not slowing…

  12. magicjohnshin1 · ·

    Thanks for sharing your candid opinions on a topic that I, as a male, am privileged to not be familiar with. It is easy to see how social media shapes opinions on self body image, pushing individuals to harbor negative thoughts about one’s body and pursue unrealistic goals. The ubiquity of apps that allow you to share yourself definitely play a big role in encouraging such harmful thoughts. I am a big fan of the movements centered on self-love and self-care, with hashtags and some corporations showing support, but I still think there needs to be a lot done from the big businesses that exploit young minds with unrealistic images for lucrative gain. I just wouldn’t know how to mobilize these corporations. Thoughts?

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