Tag Archives: social media

Social media might not be as harmful to wellbeing as originally thought, study suggests

Ever since social media was introduced with the likes of Facebook, Myspace and MSN Messenger, there have been concerns about what it could be doing to our mental health.

Studies have been conducted for years focusing on the effects different platforms have on people’s wellbeing, with most concluding it can be harmful, especially among teenagers.

But a new study conducted by the University of Oxford finds this to be false, concluding that the impact social media has on wellbeing is “trivial”.

The study asked 12,000 10-15 year olds how long they spent on social media a day, and how satisfied they were in different parts of their life. Professor Andrew Przybylski explained to BBC News that “99.75% of a person’s life satisfaction has nothing to do with their use of social media”.

So why do so many believe it does?

 

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The study investigated teenagers social media habits between 2009 and 2017: image courtesy of Unsplash

WNOL spoke to people about social media to find out if the study’s findings are reflected by the general public.

“It can be really addictive,” says one woman, who uses most platforms on a daily basis.

Another woman believes it can have an impact wellbeing, especially if someone already has an insecurity. “I think it can either bring on mental health issues, or it can escalate them and heighten them. I think any little comment can start something quite serious.”

This coincides with the study, which argued that other investigations into social media haven’t considered teenagers who might use social media more often because they already have mental health problems.

Tobias Dienlin, a media psychologist at the University of Hohenheim who was part of the research team on the study, says he predicted the results.

“If you asked me before the study I would have said, I don’t think we’ll have strong effects, it’s very unlikely. But I can understand people who are reading the news would be surprised.”

WHAT DID THE STUDY FIND_

When asked if social media could be used to improve mental health, one man WNOL spoke to believed the damage had already been done. “I feel like the negative effects are more apparent than the force that’s trying to overcome that,” he explains.

“Everyone should reflect on their social media usage,” Tobias says in response to many people still believing social media harms their wellbeing, but tries to reassure users that they shouldn’t be as concerned as they are.

“We shouldn’t ring the alarm when there’s not really an alarm to be rung”.

He believes that more research needs to be conducted on the same scale as the Oxford study. “The research we are currently doing is still in its infancy, there’s still so many things we can improve”.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Is teen-mom Kylie Jenner really the next role model?

So earlier this year Kylie Jenner, youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, gave birth to a baby girl at the age of twenty. And we all know that she isn’t any ordinary teen becoming a mom, she is a model, reality television star, socialite and social media tycoon. And with her lip kits and self-branded cosmetics business, also a multi-millionaire.

Now she, having a baby at an age when most people are busting their backs getting degrees or working (and paying off their starter loans) might seem a little odd. Funnily though, it seemed only ‘a little’ odd, if not completely normal after a while when the news first broke in the media. And now look at us, talking about it as if nothing really major happened.

But the other day, I was at one of my friends’ house, just chatting about the news, when her mom tells me she too was a teen mom. And I look at my friend with an almost shocked and disbelieved look. I couldn’t believe that my friend, who would be twenty now, had a mother who was just eighteen years older than her. And suddenly a presumed mental image of their lives popped in my head, complete with all the society’s pressures, expectations and resentments. But then I also could see my friend sitting next to me, so happy and relaxed, and her mom so full of life and humour, I couldn’t help but wonder, what was life like for a regular person who became pregnant during their teenage years.

Did she get the same level of acceptance from the society as Kylie does today for her early pregnancy? What were the circumstances that lead to it? How did her family react to the news? Who supported her during the time and along the way? Did she feel alone? Did she feel ready? How did she manage to provide for her daughter when she herself was practically so young? Did the stress of a different (and a significantly difficult) life, make bonding with her daughter difficult? Have they reached to the point in their lives now, when they feel comfortable with their life’s story despite all the stigma attached to this bigger idea (and how)? How do they make this unique bond between them work amidst all the pressures and responsibilities?

All these questions, but the question that surprised me the most was the one that I asked myself, why did the idea of my friends’ mother being a teen mom shocked me when I felt next to normal when I heard Kylie Jenner’s news?

So, I sat down with my friend and her mom, for a day of storytelling and revelations.

“I was young when I got pregnant. And my family was very religious. My mother was understanding, but my father and the society [were] not so much. So, when they found out [about it] they demanded I marry *Margo’s dad. I knew he wasn’t ready but since that was the only option we were left with, we went for it. Eighteen years old, in love, married and with my baby on board, I was quite happy. And one of my sisters was also expecting her baby around the same time, so I was excited to have our babies grow up together.” **Lily says with a rueful smile on her face.

And I think to myself, well that’s a good start. Mostly everyone’s happy and there are no mean blames thrown here, like that would ever be in case of Kylie and her family, them celebrating this change instead of being worried about future.

Kylie Jenner at her Babyshower, November 2017

“But life works in unexpected ways,” continues Lily, “and shortly after a year of marriage, me and Margo’s dad separated. He wanted different things in life, [things] that no longer included room for his family. So, baby Margo and I went back to living with my mom. Suddenly single and with complete responsibility of my little baby but no real work experience, I felt like I had somehow further failed in life.”

I can see that on outside, Lily looks relaxed as she goes down the memory lane, though a pained expression plagues her face, as if she could almost physically feel all the stings and stigma of her past again.

“But my mother was there with me, supporting me still, and pushing me to not give up hope in life just yet. So, I studied to become a teacher, and later started teaching at this place called ‘Kumon’. See Kumon is a kind of an after-school in Brazil, where kids go to improve their English and Portuguese skills. But my earnings from [working] there weren’t enough to support my family. So, in year 2008 I decided to move to UK to make a better earning and life for us.”

So many twists and turns in such short time, I feel my own heart sinking a little for all the problems Margo’s mom had to face in her youth. Social stigma and financial security, now that’s something Kylie Jenner would never have to worry about. After all, she is a celebrity worth millions.

Reality television star, Owner of self-branded cosmetics, Multi-millionaire

“Coming to UK was not that hard, we came through our EU citizenship. But after that things again got tricky to manage. No job, money or even a proper place to live, the only thing I felt like I had was a little piece of my family here, in this foreign country. My sister and her husband were already [settled] here, so Margo and I simply moved in the same house as them. Getting a roof over our heads felt like a huge blessing I received after such a long time. Shortly after that I picked up job as a nanny, and since I already had teaching experience I was good at looking after children.” says Lily, looking proud of the bravery her younger self showed at the time.

But now a troubled, and sad look came upon Margo’s face.

“Ever since then mom has been working as nanny. In our first year here, mom worked so many hours that I barely got to see.” says Margo. “Sometimes I felt really bad, I was young you know, and I missed my mom so much. We never had enough time to spend together. But it got better with time, and I think I too adjusted with my new life.”

I see Lily exchange a subtle look of deep understanding with her daughter. And Margo continues, “It’s similar in the present, she is working until late but since I’m older now so I don’t really mind anymore.”

“But during the time when she worked a lot and I was young too, it was difficult. But then it all got better once we started travelling together. We went on our first vacation to Brazil in 2010, which was great! But we really started bond when we travel more after 2014, and we visited Spain, Italy, Scotland and many places around England. Travel became our thing, it became the activity which truly brought us together.”

“And I think the best moment [between me and mom] was in Spain, where we just played cards by the beach. In that moment, I could feel all our worries and responsibilities drifting in the back of our minds, and we could just focus on spending our time with each other.” says a glowing Margo, looking happy to relive that moment.

“I guess in hindsight, I think we got lucky a lot of times. I know it’s [life after teen pregnancy] not all the same for everyone, but I feel quite blessed and content with how my life turned out. I am happy now, with only a few regrets, but who doesn’t have some [regrets in life] anyway.” says a broadly smiling Lily.

Margo and I were still sitting in Lily’s living room, but Lily took her leave to prep some tea for everyone after sharing her life’s story. And I can’t help but think to myself, even though they feel comfortable in their lives, look so happy now, and boldly accept their story, but overcoming all of that pain and struggle must take a lot of hard work and constant effort every single day. We all know by now that not everyone who walks down this path gets a happily ever after. Society makes that possibility perfectly clear and unforgettable, but only for the ordinary people. The rich and famous have the privilege and means to break free of the social boundaries that most of the world has to live in.

So, my only hope is that girls out there who are now in a similar position, transitioning into teen moms, don’t go into this life naively thinking it would all be rainbows because of what they see of celebrity lives on social media.

 

(Names of *daughter and **mom have been changed to maintain their privacy and anonymity)

 

Is social media impacting our self-perception?

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Image: Free stock photo

Is social media a blessing or a curse? Not long ago one of my friends decided to delete her Instagram account and as a person who loves the app and uses it constantly, I couldn’t understand her decision. Her answer was simple: it’s the pressure.

The pressure of posting the perfect picture, with the perfect filter and outfit and so on. You will never see someone advertising their negative traits or posting an unflattering selfie. Nowadays, social media is all about projecting our best, unrealistic self. We spend an awful amount of time trying to create a digital identity that would only show how good we look or how funny and interesting we are. In our battle for likes we forget how forget how social media can wreck our self-esteem and how we perceive ourselves.

But then it’s not just us who put on the pressure of portraying the ‘perfect life’. It also comes from celebrities or brands, who are the main promoters of unrealistic standards. Studies show that all those lean figures and perfect faces that we see all over Instagram on a daily basis, only lowers our self-perception. Comparing yourself to others becomes a habit and if someone’s life looks remotely better, we start thinking low of our own.

Although the negative effects of social media can impact both genders, women are the main sufferers, especially when it comes to fitness or beauty ideals and expectations that they encounter online. According to a study made by the brand Dove “82 percent of women feel the beauty standards set by social media are unrealistic” and “almost three quarters of women believe social media comments critiquing women’s beauty are destructive to their self-esteem.”

So what is there to do about it? First of all, people should stop comparing themselves to others. We are only comparing ourselves to an ideal, unrealistic figure and not a real representation of a person. And when it comes to the things we share online, they should be a reflection of our offline persona, of our true self.

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Image: Free stock photo

Casual sexism and social media

The standardisation of social media as a tool for young people to communicate and share their experiences has faced a lot of criticism. We want teenagers off their smart-phones and romanticise simpler childhoods spent playing outdoors. Yet social media can be a great source for good. It allows people to connect long distance and to find people with similar interests. Mostly it allows us to share our experiences and interests, good or bad. The bad tending to be expressions of prejudice.

I'm not a feminist I shave my legs

I’m not a feminist I shave my legs’, original illustration by author 

Society is doing a great job of eliminating sexism and whilst we’ve still got a long way to go we currently have a better gender balance than ever before. Social media is a great tool for political engagement, particularly with teenagers and young people. It is way to share positive messages and inspiring stories that educate. Feminist content from Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post receive thousands of likes and shares from people of all generations, nationalities and genders. However on the other side there is still sexist content going viral.

The focus of social media as an outlet tool for young people is at once freeing and a little horrifying. With 71% of teens aged 13 to 17 on Facebook and 52% on Instagram, it is clear that we are all likely to be heavily influenced by our interactions on them. Social media, particularly for young people comes down to sharing. Sharing your experiences within your own network in a controlled manner. By simply liking or sharing a post you can show your political views to the world, your world of followers that is. Whilst popular news sites and viral sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy that post mostly amusing or politically positive content have great shareability, so do some uglier messages.

UNILAD and The Lad Bible, websites that are based around the idea of ‘Lad culture’ are hugely popular, with each Facebook page having six and ten million likes respectively. Originally containing content that included scantily dressed women for sexual gratification, they have recently tried to overhaul their image to something a little more ‘respectable’. In a recent article, Buzzfeed reported that The Lad Bible is now ‘trying to shake off its image as a boobs and banter site, full of sexist jokes and soft porn’. And whilst the pages main posts consist of amusing viral content, its previous laddish connotations have seemed to infect the comment culture surrounding them.

Lad culture is something that has come to light in the past year. Whilst always having existed in some form or another, the current trend is for a grand show of traditional masculinity, influenced by American fraternities. At it’s most extreme a source of homophobia and misogyny, at it’s mildest a representation of ‘brotherhood’ trying to hold on to traditional macho ideals through so-called ‘banter’. Dapper Laugh’s fall from grace began with a petition to stop him speaking at Cardiff university and ended with the removal of his show from ITV. The comedian shot to fame making Vines of pranks and ‘pick-up artistry’ but caused concern over his promotion of rape culture. Last October there was also a huge controversy surrounding the LSE Rugby society after a pamphlet was circulated that contained misogynistic and homophobic content. It is a clear sign of how the general public, particularly the student body are no longer standing for sexist humour. 

Britain First are also masters shareability, engaging beguiled animal lovers to share animal rights posts from the infamously nationalist group, without thinking of their political agenda. In fact, a lot of the most disturbing viral posts are often a mix of Islamaphobia and sexism. An American post suggesting, supposedly in humour, that Muslim women should go naked to show that they were not suicide bombers went viral on Facebook last year. Though this one of the most despicable examples, images objectifying women with a humorous slant are often shared. One of the most recent examples that popped up on my feed was an image showing a woman dressed in underwear making breakfast comparing her to the stimulation of caffeine. With these examples and many more like them, it is clear that young people on social media are regularly exposed to sexism. It only takes one person with an ignorant sense of humour to share content with a harmful message.

The internet provides anonymity, and whilst your Facebook profile may have your name and face plastered all over it there is still a sense of security that comes with voicing your opinion from a screen. Whilst social media doesn’t perpetuate casual sexism, it does provide and outlet on which there seem to be fewer consequences for your actions. Due to the immediate nature of online, there isn’t much thought that goes into the click of the ‘share button’.

The rise of the Meninist movement is also a recent social media based phenomenon. Calling ‘down with feminism’, the moment focuses on gaining rights for men whom they believe have been repressed by feminist ideals. Claiming to seek equality, the movement started with relatively comedic tweets and memes but has gone so far as to mimic anti-rape posters and tweet abuse at feminists. The Meninist Twitter account has over 929k followers and tweets sexist comments such as ‘all the girls with a cups need to stop wasting money on bras and just buy some tank tops like the rest of us.’ Recently they released their own t-shirts with many women sending in pictures of themselves wearing the top featuring ‘#Meninist’.

However, it is not all negative. More and more young people are attempting to combat sexism and feel comfortable calling themselves feminists. Earlier this year Emma Watson’s He For She speech quickly went viral with people of all genders sharing the video, related articles and memes. The speech was also backed by many male celebrities. The endorsement of celebrities often capture the attention of a wider audience and make for stronger response in our fame obsessed society. These contributions seem to help de-stigmatise feminism, particularly in the eyes of young people.

The worrying issue of causal sexism on social media is the way in which it normalises misogyny. By no means the only distressing issue on the Internet, the displays of sexism masquerading as humour and lad culture may seem rather harmless. Yet when young people are convinced that these views are ok, there is a risk that they will carry them over to their daily lives.

To add some voices to the issue I had some sixteen and eighteen year old girls discuss the issues surrounding sexism and social media.

What Is Feminism?

‘I don’t think it’s just for women, it’s a movement to abolish inequality, it’s for everyone.’

‘Everybody interprets feminism differently and there are so many different classifications of feminism now.’

‘I think people also stereotype feminists, they think of radical feminists and have negative associations.’

Do you consider yourself a feminist?

‘I don’t know enough about the movement to consider myself a feminist, I think it would be insulting to other feminists to call myself one’

‘I think if you believe in equal rights between men and women than you are a feminist, why not identify yourself as one? I don’t think you have to be active, to join a club or protest, it is more to with mind-set, it’s an ideology.’

‘The word feminist has been so tainted over the years that people may judge you for saying that you are one.’

What are some of the negative connotations that come to mind when you think of the word feminism?

‘I think of angry women telling me not to have sex or wear short skirts.’

‘With social media people can easily express their views and those with an extreme view seem more likely to share it. For instance you have feminists on Tumblr who just bad mouth men and seem to give feminism a bad name.’

‘You’re always going to have groups that give an ideology a bad name and they tend to be the loudest.’

‘You don’t hear much positivity about feminism in the media, the only thing I’ve seen is the Emma Watson He for She speech’

‘I think the word feminism has too much negative history, it is difficult to change people’s perceptions of that word. Maybe they should come up with a new label.’

In your opinion what view do your peers hold on feminism?

‘My friends feel like they’re feminists, they feel strongly about it yet we don’t discuss our views on it often.’

‘In my Psychology class we were asked who considered themselves a feminist and only four people put their hands up. However, when asked who believed in equal rights for men and women, everyone put their hands up. There were so many people who didn’t want define themselves as feminists as they didn’t want to be seen as extreme. I just think that there’s no education on it.’

How Important is feminism?

‘I think it’s very important, if we didn’t have feminism where would be now? We have come so far because of feminism and I think we will always need it to challenge inequalities.’

‘I think we are lucky because our society is quite forward thinking and has developed and I think we can pass this on to other cultures to help them achieve equality.’

What do you think of groups such as The Lad Bible and UNILAD?

‘I love The Lad Bible, I think they’re hilarious. They take the piss out of things and share funny videos.’

‘It started out being about men being laddish but now it’s reclaimed the term as something that can be applied to men and women as a commendation for being funny.’

‘Though they have moved on, there is still content that is misogynistic, like Dapper Laughs. He started out funny but then became overly sexual and started making rape jokes, it’s just not ok.’

‘Men seem to think you should be complimented by cat-calls, but they’re so aggressive about it. The first time we went clubbing we walked in and instantly felt men look at us and it made me fell so uncomfortable that there was nothing I could do about it.’

‘I think that’s the problem with (lad culture inspired) pages and Dapper Laughs, it can make that sort of abuse funny, it normalises it. Men see this and they copy it because they think it’s ok.’

Do your friends on social media ever share anything that you find offensive or sexist?

‘There are girls who will share posts that are so derogatory to women and I can’t believe they share it as it can’t be what they really think.’

‘People often share sexist posts about what women should be doing in bed and how men should behave in a relationship and it sets a double standard. Like women should be in the kitchen, guys should pay on a date, it’s so old fashioned’

‘I think when girls see these sexist posts and feel pressured to share them, they’re learning and accepting those values.’

‘There’s so much slut shaming on social media. I think as girls we do that a lot, we do it to each other more than men. We enable men to talk to women this way by doing it to each other. We call other girls who have slept with lots of people ‘sluts’ but don’t criticise men for doing the same.’

Do you use social media to make your political views known?

‘I think it’s hard to share your views on Facebook, if there’s something I felt passionate about I would, but I mainly use it for talking to friends. There’s so much going on, on Facebook I feel as though it would get lost and no one would pay attention to my views.’

‘I like sharing my views, even if my granddad’s the only who will look at it and comment on the posts. I feel validated by sharing things that I find and interesting and that I think matter.’

How important do you think social media is in achieving equality?

‘I think it’s really important because it is the way young people communicate and is one of the only ways we learn about issues such as the feminist cause.’

‘I don’t watch TV, something like the Emma Watson video, I would have never seen had someone not shared it in my social network. The ability of videos and posts to go viral is how we find out about them.’

‘The way I hear about political issues is by watching something such as Russell Brand’s The Trews. And if something sparks my interest I then might look it up but I don’t watch or read the news to get information.’

‘I think one of the problems is people think that social media is not the place to share your political views. I’d be scared to share certain views considered extreme, and when I see feminist posts I agree with I don’t feel the need to share it.’

In a society that is ever-progressing when it comes to fighting in equality, it seems that casual sexism on social media goes unnoticed. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow us to choose our own social network and therefore create our own news feeds. If we are offended by, or dislike content posted we have the option to unfollow accounts and even report the post. But doing so is an active process. As a teenager today with a vast amount of your social interactions occurring online, you are unlikely to want to delete a friend just for sharing something you don’t agree with. When your social status depends on how many likes and followers you have it is a natural instinct to not want to risk alienation. Maybe it is time we start teaching young people more about their right to equality and support them in navigating the vast exposure that comes with social media and living in an online world.

 

Do you think there is a problem with casual sexism online? Let me know in the comments of @DarcieTF.

 

Facebook depression alerts

Today’s young people spend a great deal of time on social media. It’s no surprise that signs of mental illnesses like depression can often appear first on these platforms. Facebook has decided to take action. Developers have introduced a new option for post reporting that will open a menu allowing the concerned user to either send a direct message to the poster, message other friends for support or access websites that suggest ways to help. Any posts that are reported will be reviewed by a third-party operator. There is also a way to send alerts to the original poster letting them know who is worried about them as well as links to videos about depression and local support groups.

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