It pains me to say it, but I don't know much about growing up in this modern world - it has been a very, very long time since I was a teenager trying to find my place in this world. What I do know is that gone are the days when your main worry was being picked last for the rounder’s team during PE - whoever devised that as a good idea for school children needs a very stern talking too and possibly detention.
Now we have the whole new world of social media, whereby we're competing for likes and follows and shares on our photos and funny stories. If we post a photo and only 4 people like it, does that mean we're fat and ugly?
I am a social network whore, quite possibly to unhealthy limits but I love it! Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram - I have, use and love them all.
However as an uncertain 14 year old I am not sure that my love of all of these pages would be the same? I can imagine being an unsure teenager and posting a photo of myself - if none of my classmates liked it, I can imagine the devastation that could follow. All you want is the guy that sits at the back of the class to notice your photo and like it - is that really too much to ask!? Gone are the days when you can imagine that he smiled at you and that would be enough - now we need the physical evidence that someone LIKES our photo almost as a validation that they like US! (I am talking in very broad terms here)...
Without being dramatic I can imagine it being a slippery slope - your classmate posts a photo of her pouting and wearing too much make up, you go one step further and post a photo in your bikini, or some proactive pose just to get more likes that her. It seems like harmless fun and in many cases it is - but I feel we should be teaching our younger generation that the only 'like' they really need in this world is their own! The truth is that as a 14 year old, the people we rely on so heavily to like our photos probably won’t be the same people we celebrate our first pregnancy with or when we sign our mortgage, so the grand scheme of things they really don't matter.
Then we have the flipside that the confusion of these photos can cause - a boy posts on your photo "wow, sexy" and you like it - have you given him permission to look you up and down and take in every inch of your body when you see him? No! But the posting of your photo and the liking of his comment might lead him to think so!
I am sure that there has always been proactive poses and boys calling girls sexy, but it seems to me (and I am by no means an expert) that this is so much in our faces now... Boys and growing up to be men who think it's ok to message a girl on a dating website and ask to see her tits or to pass her in a bar and smack her on the bottom. I know that this has absolutely always happened, but I think the openness of social networking has let the problem grow. We now have men who think that they can talk to women in a manner they would kill someone for, if they spoke to a female in their family in the same way - who think its ok to grope a woman as they walk past her however young she might be or to simply tell her she isn’t likeable enough. It is absoluetly not ok for men to do this and we need to make a stand and teach our children the right way to behave, so that they can grow up to be adults we're proud of - not lecherous men or unsure women, who behave in such a way that they're damaging other people with their actions.
I love, love, love social networking - the world of social media and bloggers has been an inspiration to me and so many others. It has bought me new friends and opportunities I never know - but I just hope that the trend of wanting 'likes' so badly doesn’t damage our younger generation, because as long as you love yourself the rest will fall into place - you do not need the validation of a certain number of Facebook likes to tell you that you are beautiful, any mirror anywhere will do that for you.
What have your experiences online been like?
P.S I fully understand that this article is in very broad terms and that both genders can be affected in much the same way. I am no expert in this field and this is just an opinion piece and nothing more - thanks for reading!