“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” It is easy to note that the Evil Queen in the movie “Snow White” cares about being the greatest in the land in physical appearance and worldly possessions. This is evidenced by her obsession with looking in her magical mirror and needing to change things about herself, or other people, to see value.
Although this character is simplified into a selfish and power-hungry individual, I wonder if we ourselves owned a magical mirror, such as the one she had, if we would be tempted to ask the mirror “Who is the fairest of them all?” It is likely that you do not have this dramatized magical item in your possession. However, if we think of our phones, tablets, and media outlets as “mirrors”, then we may fall into the same trap the Evil Queen once did in “Snow White”. Surely, we know this behavior of comparison, greed, and self-distortion of image are not desirable characteristics. However, sometimes we find ourselves identifying more with the Queen then we may care to admit.
Parents and educators are constantly worried about screen time for today’s younger generations. It seems anywhere we turn, we are being told to “get the latest app, iPhone, or technology.” We may wake up in the morning to check the time on our phone and, fifteen minutes later, we find ourselves scrolling on a social media site. We may be waiting in line or at a traffic light and double check our messages to see if we missed any. We may be in class or at work and need a mental break and, by habit, we go to Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. The point is, no matter where we are, we want to stay connected with the world around us and for some reason, we turn to a screen instead of looking at what is right in front of us. Today’s generations are growing up in a world where they cannot comprehend a world without the internet or a smartphone. We literally look downwards in attempt to feel upwards and better about ourselves. However, researchers indicate that using social media as a method of finding a sense of reality is degrading our own self-awareness and perceptions of the real world rather than helping us be happy. When we physically look down onto our screens are we really looking down on ourselves?
With so much political, educational, and personal influence, the media is a powerful tool to get people to think one way or the other. Research from Grabe, Ward, and Hyde (2008) suggests, Exposure to media images depicting the thin-ideal body is related to body image concerns for women. Furthermore, “Positive relationships between exposure to fashion or beauty magazines and (a) overall appearance dissatisfaction and (b) eating disorder tendencies were found” (Kim & Lennon, 2007). In essence, the more media one looks at, the more likely they are to have body image concerns. So why does our culture insist on exposing our most vulnerable age-group with doubts of who they are, what they should look like, and what they need to be doing to be considered “good, cool, or important.” From a more helpful perspective, we should put our efforts into empowering our children and the younger generations than we currently do. Life has so much more to offer than a 4-inch screen in front of our face.
Besides the comparison issues, media and social networks can often be locations of bullying or intimidation to teenagers. Life threatening games are sometimes exposed to youth. One of these “games” is known as the “Blue Whale challenge.” The Blue Whale Challenge is 50 days of challenges that the participant must complete. On the final day, the challenge is to commit suicide. We may think that because this idea seems so absurd, that it isn’t real or that “it couldn’t happen to my child.” However, when faced with encouragement, temptations, or peer pressure, individuals may put less value on their own life. We must never get too distracted from the world around us that we are missing the warning signs of suicide or other circumstances where people are crying out for help.
The following is a list of ideas to help individuals and youth in your life to not rely on social media for happiness. *Not every idea is listed or may work for everyone.
Have a meaningful conversation with someone each day.
Find someone to serve.
When you’re in line or waiting somewhere, talk to someone or be aware of your surroundings.
Keep a journal.
Instead of scrolling your phone, learn a hobby or find a book to read.
Whatever you choose, give it purpose. Remind yourself that, “I choose to _________ because my life has value.”
By Dr. Greg Hudnall & Paula Dudley
For resources for social networking guideline ideas, mental health, and suicide prevention programs near you, please visit the following:
Grabe, S., Ward, L. M., & Hyde, J. S. (2008). The role of the media in body image concerns among women: A meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. APA PsycNET. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.134.3.460
Kim, J., & Lennon, S. J. (2007). Mass Media and Self-Esteem, Body Image, and Eating Disorder Tendencies. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 25(1), 3-23. doi:10.1177/0887302x06296873