Social Media: The Latest Disorder Plaguing Girls (of all ages)

4w_mon620281_062314 Morgan Eseke is a business marketing professional (and 4word woman!) here in Dallas. She has a passion for mentoring younger women, and in 2009 she launched a multigenerational discipleship ministry in Norman, Ok called CoffeeTalk. Most recently, she launched a blog with the purpose of inspiring women of all ages to pursue a life of purpose. I invited her to share about her time mentoring high school girls and about the social media dangers her mentees have been exposed to. – Diane

As someone who has benefited tremendously from mentorship, I’ve made it a priority to seek out younger women to invest in and encourage. It’s my small way of giving back and sharing the lessons I myself have been fortunate enough to learn.

For the past several years, my passion has been mentoring high school girls. During this impressionable stage of life, girls are exploring the kind of woman they want to become. I believe it is imperative for girls to have older women in their lives — in addition to their mother — who will model Christ for them. The vital key that helped me survive my high school experience was my relationships with several godly women. These women inspired me to model my life after them.

I now meet regularly with a group of sweet high school girls in Coppell, Texas. Seven years ago, I walked the very same Coppell High School halls that they do now. I actually wore the exact same red and black cheer uniform they are wearing! But it continues to amaze me how much the world of high school has changed in the seven short years since I was a student. High schoolers now turn in homework on school district issued iPads, stop on the way to classes to take “selfies” with friends, and live or die by the number of “likes” they get on Instagram.

For those of you with teenage girls in your life, I wanted to share the most startling insight I learned from my high school mentees this year: Social media has a tremendous impact on your daughter’s self-image. And it’s dangerous.

The word “selfie” was Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. And the song #Selfie by The Chainsmokers has over 100 million views on YouTube at the time of this article. I haven’t done all the research, but I think this says something very sad about our society, in particular the millennial generation. Social media is an increasingly strong force that is simultaneously multiplying self-centeredness and crippling the self-confidence of the next generation.

(Quick disclaimer: I love social media. In fact, the majority of my marketing career has been focused on this subject. I am constantly working to stay “in the know” of the latest trends and best practices for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram etc. and I love it! I think social media is a fantastic tool if used with caution.)

After discussing this topic with over a hundred high school girls in both Oklahoma and Texas, the resounding response was this: When interacting on social media (specifically Instagram), their thoughts are typically either narcissistic or self-deprecating and, usually, both in the same browsing time. For example, when scrolling through their Instagram feed, your daughter will likely feel the sting of insecurity when comparing herself to her peers, but at the same time, she may feel a burst of pride when she notices that over 200 of her followers “liked” the latest picture she posted.

Several of my mentees admitted that it was “shameful” to have less than 100 likes on any one picture. They told me that they usually keep a close eye on the number of “likes” they are accumulating. If their post lacks approval from their peers, they will quickly take the picture down to avoid feeling embarrassed.

Scripture says that, “where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder” (James 3:16). The way social media tends to multiply self-centered thoughts and perpetuate envy or insecurity sounds like a lot of disorder to me.

Switching the Focus Outward

So how do we address this dangerous issue? Again, I think Scripture is always the best place to look for answers to life’s hard questions. Hebrews 10:24 encourages us to “spur one another on toward love and good works”. By switching our focus outward and using social media as a tool for encouragement and lifting others up, we not only lessen its self-destructive power but we harness this tool for something really good!

I encourage my young mentees (and myself) to intentionally think before sharing anything on social media, “Will this post encourage those who read/see it?” This little question has stopped me from bragging or complaining on several occasions. It has also helped me think of intentional ways to use social media to edify and encourage my friends. I usually do this by celebrating friends’ accomplishments or reminding my friends of how thankful I am for their presence in my life with a “TBT” (Throw Back Thursday) picture.

Check Your Heart

I implore you to have conversations about the affects of social media with the young women in your life. Ask them to check their hearts. Social media is such a massive part of our culture that they likely do not even recognize the internal impact it is having on their self-image. Here are some questions that my high school mentees and I chatted about recently. I hope these will give you a starting point for discussing this issue with the young women in your life:

I recently wrote a blog post for high school girls on the power of social media. This may also be a good tool for broaching this topic with your daughter, niece, granddaughter, or teenaged friend.

How has this article affected your views on social media?