A note before we get started: we talk briefly about depression and suicide in this episode. If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues, we have a list of resources available to help on our website.
Part of being a teen is realizing that things are not as simple as they seem.
That there’s a darker side to the world that maybe you’re just seeing for the first time.
It’s also a time when — some of us, hopefully — figure out ways to navigate that.
One thing that’s been a constant in today’s teens lives is social media.
We can’t talk about what it’s like to be a teen today without talking about social media, and how it can mess with your self-image.
“I think it’s completely an addiction,” said recent high school graduate, Angelina. She’s big into fashion and follows a lot of influencers online.
“I definitely find myself like comparing myself to everyone else I see on social media. And anytime I post a picture on Instagram, I'm constantly checking how many likes I’m getting, how many comments I'm getting, am I getting enough likes and comments compared to my friends?” she said.
But it’s not just about the likes or the comments.
"Definitely on a deeper level, it just affects the way I see myself. It's one thing to be in-person, like walking down the halls and just feel like looking at like all of the other girls and like what they're wearing and like what their body looks like. But really like seeing it and being able to just stare for hours on social media is just completely different,” Angelina said.
Dr. Christia Brown is a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky.
She’s written about how teenagers interact with social media. Brown says if kids take a lot of selfies and post them to get a bunch of likes then they have a lower body image over time.
“So they feel worse about their body. They feel more shame about their body.
So the more you think about your body, unfortunately, you don't think a lot about and think, ‘Oh, wow, I look fabulous.’ Usually when you think a lot about your body, you actually feel worse about it,” Brown said.
One way to get out of that bad feedback loop? Stop checking your phone so much.
“Recently, I stopped caring as much about social media just because I feel like I’ve gained a lot more confidence in myself and I've stopped having as much desire to constantly be getting attention and, like, I don’t need other people to be telling me I’m great, if i’m starting to believe it more myself,” Angelina said.
Hear more about how social media and other things that teens deal with daily are often more complicated than they seem in episode five of Kids These Days on Apple Podcasts or wherever you like to listen.
If you or someone you know is facing immediate harm because of suicidal or homicidal thoughts or actions, please get help now:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
- Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741
- Call the University of Michigan Psychiatric Emergency Services at 734-936-5900
Mental health Resources for teens
- Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
- The Trevor Project (for LGBTQ)
- HelpGuide (for teen depression)
- Nemours TeensHealth (for relationships, body image, families, emotions)
Additional mental health resources for parents, and families, and educators at our website, michiganradio.org.
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