I gave talks at a primary school last week with children aged ten and eleven. We were discussing healthy mindset and the implications that heavy social media use can have on our wellbeing – I described social media as a highlights reel and we all agreed that people, of course, only post what they want others to see. They choose specific events, moments of interest or aesthetically pleasing products, items or photographs and post those – not their laundry piles, untidy houses or what they really had for breakfast. We identified that life will never be as perfect as Instagram portrays – and these are the words of the children, not mine.
They weren’t all using social media yet but almost everyone agreed that social media – Instagram, specifically – produced a personal pressure to live the lives we see so often online: the brunch dates, the latte art, the designer clothing, the giant collections of beauty products – and the perfect chiselled cheekbones that they’re used for. Being unable to fulfil these lifestyles creates a sense of inadequacy and questioning of worth – something that I don’t think anybody should be facing, let alone aged ten or eleven.
Whilst the sessions were interesting, they didn’t reveal anything that came of a surprise to me. We’re aware of the effects that social media can have – and does have – on us, and particularly young people. Teachers are teaching and parents are parenting – the children were already fairly well educated on how social media can impact mindset. I’ve since been told that one of the teachers who came in on the talks has decided to implement some of what was discussed into their curriculum over the next few weeks: fantastic! But, can we make a real difference all the time social media and technology is in control?
I saw an article last week talking about how huge fashion brands are starting to use CGI models, and with the likes of ‘Lil Miquela’ - an entirely computer-generated persona - with such social influence, I can’t help but feel that we’re somewhat helpless in the Social Media VS. Wellbeing battle.
Young, impressionable people are already battling to stay relevant, on-trend and adequate by following the ‘norms’ expressed on social media platforms by real people with real accounts – throw in accounts made up of nothing but fakery and you’ve got yourself a disaster for beauty and lifestyle standards.
Lil Miquela is identified as a ‘fictional character’ by Google. And yet she’s posting with members of the Royal Family, Prince, The Olsen Twins, and promoting fashion brands whilst doing so. She has 1.4 million followers on Instagram and her account is verified.
If you ask me, nothing about this profile is verified.
The possibilities are endless – brands can create their perfect models and superimpose them wherever they want. They can create entirely false imagery and publish it for their millions of followers and fans to absorb. But don’t they have a sense of responsibility?
I talk about the importance of engagement on social media very regularly and have previously spoken about how I feel social media should be exactly that: social. But instead, we have algorithms generated by computers, feeding us computer-generated content – where are the people? Why isn’t it social?
How far will it go?