As an individual in my twenties, I feel I have marginally avoided having the the colossal weight of pressure from social media, being dropped on me by society. For many young people, social media demands that you must attempt to compete in the rat race, by projecting the idealised version of yourself onto social, aspiring to have the most likes, comments, friends and followers.
Having resisted the lure of a personal Facebook account since deactivating in 2009, (there is no danger of that Facebook page being reactivated now 8 years on!), and more recently, having received messages from peers asking me to like their Instagram image, as soon as it is uploaded, I can't help but reflect on how social media has a danger of installing an unhealthy social competitiveness, among some of my own generation, and younger. In reality, there is no real way of measuring if you are winning. In fact, for most, if not all social media users, there will always be someone with more likes, more followers, and a better-edited image of the perfectly filtered life.
The emersion in social media can be extremely detrimental to a young person's confidence and mental health. Combine that with the expectation of flourishing academic results, and it is easy to see how being a young person today, with a bombardment of expectations from all angles, can be overwhelming.
This is certainly not a blog that aims to throw shade at all aspects of social media and suggest everyone should deactivate their online presence. There is no doubt that social media boasts a multitude of strengths in the modern world. It can offer support to those in need (see my Passle on Sharing Mental Health Issues on Social Media? - Sinead O’Connor), it can offer convenience in terms of socialising, communication, and keeping up with what's happening in your friend's lives. Not to mention the benefits social media can have on businesses that are aiming to reach targeted audiences, in order to market their product or service.
However, it is essential that the potential pitfalls of social media are acknowledged and managed, as the temptation for young people to use social media predominantly as a comparative tool, to measure their own lives against the contents of their news feeds, appears to often be a coax too difficult to ignore.
I am delighted to see that money is being invested into a project that aims to support young people, yet, I can not help but question why it has taken this long to recognise that this is a step that needs to be made. Nonetheless, I only hope this is the beginning of a support system which continues to gain momentum nationally. It is essential that mental health in young people is not overlooked by being pushed into the category of hormones, or simply being part of growing up.
Ultimately, it is of paramount importance that an individuals confidence is not defined by the 'success' of their social media pages.
A week ago, the National Education Union urged the Welsh Government to introduce wellbeing officers into schools. Some children feel under pressure to do well in exams while others have said they are being bullied through social media. "They live their lives online, often skewing what's reality and what's not reality, and with that comes many problems." She said it could affect self esteem and their image but added there were other reasons people suffer mental health issues. "We also see people who present to us with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self harm to name a few. "In school as well there are exam pressures and [pressures] with the current changes in the framework of assessments for young people."