By Monica Coleman, Dove Self-Esteem Cadre Trainer
Written by Cairn Guidance in partnership with the Dove Self-Esteem Project
The way we look at ourselves and others has changed dramatically with social media and tools used to engage with the world online. We have replaced our pocket mirrors with the selfie function of our cell phones and made habits of posting our self-checks online for all to see. Filters, angles, and edits help erase any blemish and accentuate features beyond their reality. We can add muscles, lose weight, increase our height or decrease it, all with a few clicks before we post images on social media. The manipulation of professional media, like ads in print and TV, are well-documented and has been shown to distort girls’ perception of beauty. Now, anyone with the right app can complete many of these edits in less than a minute right in the palm of their hands. You better believe that young people struggling with accepting their appearance might succumb to the instant gratification of likes, shares, hearts, and praises that are often the result of heavily-edited, filtered photos.
While nothing is wrong with a young person wanting to look beautiful or handsome, the problem arises when their vanity becomes so important that it drives them to doing things that affect their ability to think critically and make good, safe decisions. It may seem harmless to alter images before posting them. However, consider the price young people are really paying to join the “100 Club,” which really isn’t a club as much as it is the achievement of gaining 100 or more likes on a photo. For some young people, getting 100 or more likes is the only reason they post anything on social media. If they don’t reach that goal, they may delete the picture and only leave pictures that have 100 or more likes. This leaves a false impression and sense of who that young person really is in life if they only display photos that are popular.
As adults working with youth, we can reverse this trend by helping young people understand that their value is not based on their appearance or ability to achieve 100 or more likes. One quick way to do this is tucked inside lessons in the Confident Me! curriculum, available at no cost through the Dove Self-Esteem Project. This curriculum contains a module on media messages and addresses the detrimental impact social media can play in a young person’s life. The lesson helps students explore how personal media can impact their self-esteem and lead to serious mental health problems like depression, for example. Further, the lesson encourages students to create goals to resist images that promote ideal appearances, such as those that edited images seek to achieve, by selecting a small, simple action to start making a change in this area.
I have been thinking about the ‘100 Club’ idea and would like to put a spin on it to show young people just how many adults out here care about them and accept them just the way they are. I now challenge any adult reading this to join the “Confident Me! Club” with me by sending an email to me to get a copy of this curriculum to implement in your school. My goal is for this curriculum to be implemented in 150 schools by December 1, 2018. Let me know if you would like more information on Confident Me! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.