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'If I don't get 40 likes on my selfies my self esteem plummets': The truth about how social media affects teenage girls that EVERY mother needs to read now 



  • Compelling new research by the Dove Self-Esteem Project reveals the significant impact of social media on girls
  • The number of girls feeling under pressure to look good online doubles between the ages of 13 and 18 
  • Girls want three times more 'likes' than they get on social media  
  • And the one million girls with low body confidence are particularly affected 

Sponsored by the Dove Self-Esteem Project

By Lorraine Fisher for MailOnline

Published: 03:05 EST, 8 October 2015 | Updated: 04:10 EST, 8 October 2015

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Posting 'selfies' online for others to 'like' is as much a part of growing up nowadays as going to school or rowing with your mum.

But with social media being increasingly linked to mental health problems, including depression and body dysmorphic disorder, is it quite as innocent as it seems?

Use of social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has reached unprecedented levels – new research reveals half of all 13 to 23-year-old women are on it 'all the time'.

On average, they post a selfie a day, yet worryingly 60 per cent of less body-confident girls admit being upset if they don't get enough 'likes'. 

Social media is being increasingly linked to mental health problems, including depression and body dysmorphic disorder among young people 

Social media is being increasingly linked to mental health problems, including depression and body dysmorphic disorder among young people 

According to new research commissioned by Dove, for their Self-Esteem Project, there are more than a million girls in Britain suffering from low body confidence, two-thirds of whom say they feel 'prettier' online than they do in real life. 

The impact of social media on this group of girls, in particular, cannot be underestimated.  And it gets worse as they get older.

While at first young girls' interaction on social media is largely positive, with 70 per cent of girls aged 13-17 feeling they can express their true selves online, this changes as they get older and become more aware of how they look.

At first, young girls' interaction on social media platforms is largely positive, but this changes as they get older (posed by model)

At first, young girls' interaction on social media platforms is largely positive, but this changes as they get older (posed by model)

These shocking statistics, revealed in Dove's research which involved more than 1,000 girls aged 13 to 23 across the UK, have led the brand to launch a campaign called 'No Likes Needed' to encourage young women to value themselves rather than have their self-worth dictated by social media.

But is it really such a problem? We spoke to three young women who revealed the huge and often terrifying effect social media has on their lives - and advise you on how you can help your daughter keep her confidence online.

We have removed surnames to help the girls retain a degree of anonymity.  

IF YOU DON'T TAKE SELFIES, YOU'RE UNPOPULAR

Annie, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from the south west of England.

If you don't take selfies, you're a social outcast. You have to do it to fit in. Those who don't aren't as popular at school.

I take selfies about ten times a day and post about two on Facebook – any more and people get annoyed and won't 'like' your photo. And it's all about getting likes – the more you have, the more popular it means you are.

I spend about two-and-a-half hours a day taking selfies and if I get less than 75-80 likes, I delete it. That's embarrassing and it makes you worry not as many people like you as you thought.

Annie, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from the south west of England, says she takes selfies about 10 times a day 

Annie, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from the south west of England, says she takes selfies about 10 times a day 

Annie says if one of her social media posts receives less than 75 'likes' she will delete it

Annie says if one of her social media posts receives less than 75 'likes' she will delete it

But lots of likes can put you in a better mood all day. I like to get over 100 likes - often you go around school saying to people 'Like my photo, like my photo', to get more.

My record is 195 – it's my aim to get over 200.

Everyone has a 'selfie face' - the face they pull for photos.  I always smile, whereas other girls pout or do peace signs.  Your selfie face changes like fashion.

My selfie habit drives my mum mad as I often use her camera to take them because it's better than mine, and then she says she has to spend a long time deleting all the pictures I've taken.

We talk about them a lot at school, maybe for half an hour a day with different groups of people. 

Often when I'm bored, I'll put all my make up on to take a selfie, than take it off again once I've got one I'm happy with. 

I'm pretty happy generally, and love sport: surfing and playing handball, especially.  Or I like spending nights in watching Netflix with my family.

My brother, who's 13, loves selfies but for him it's all about the hair - he has to have the right kind of gel.

Mum hated the craze for 'pouty' selfies but that's over now - they're more natural. I know she thinks we're vain for taking selfies but we're not. It's just what we do nowadays - it's normal. I'm even teaching my six-old sister to take them! 

I THINK 'WHY CAN'T I BE THAT PRETTY?'

Emily, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from the north west of England.

I love selfies and post one on Facebook or Instagram every day. It can take up to an hour – first I do my hair and make-up, then I find the right place to take them – by a window for the light and with nothing messy in the background.

It's always at home - I'd be too embarrassed to take selfies in public!  Some girls spend much longer doing them than me - they spend ages contouring their make up to look good. 

Emily spends an hour on her hair and make-up before taking up to 100 pictures of herself - just to get one she likes

Emily spends an hour on her hair and make-up before taking up to 100 pictures of herself - just to get one she likes

After taking 50-100, I look at them and choose the best. If I don't like any, I have to do it all again.  I often send them to friends and say 'What do you think of this one?' before I post.

It's just for fun but when people are liking it, it makes you feel good about yourself. That feeling can last a long time as you can keep going back to the picture and re-reading the comments.

If less than 40 like it, I feel deflated though. And it can be upsetting sometimes when a friend posts one and you think 'Why can't I be that pretty?'    

Shocking statistics: This infographic from Dove shows the challenges girls are facing in social networks

Shocking statistics: This infographic from Dove shows the challenges girls are facing in social networks

But the feeling doesn't last long - you know you can't let it get to you - and your friends always cheer you up.

Dove says the average British girl spends 12 minutes preparing for a single selfie (file image)

Dove says the average British girl spends 12 minutes preparing for a single selfie (file image)

Your close friends don't care what you look like.  We send make up-less selfies to each other all the time - even if I'm in bed I'll send one to show them what I'm doing.  It doesn't matter how you look in them. 

We talk about them a lot at school and even send each other selfies as we walk home.  It's not the be-all and end-all of our lives, but it is important and you put effort into it. 

Mum thinks it’s harmless fun, although she doesn’t like seeing me upset if not enough people have liked my photo or that someone else is prettier than me. She always tells me, 'We’re all made differently – that’s the point of life'.

I’ve got good friends too – there are four of us and they’re more like sisters to me. I’ve two younger sisters as well but they don’t take selfies yet. Nor does my older brother – I think it’s a girl thing.

Besides there are other important things in my life – I love to dance, I do jazz and ballet, and want to be a dancer when I’m older. I’m a black belt in Taekwondo and love doing drama both in and after school.

IT HELPED TRIGGER MY ANOREXIA

Emily, 22, works for a digital company in the north of England.

At school, aged 16, we'd all post selfies and the pretty, popular girls would get the most comments and likes. I'd be jealous – they were having such an amazing time and I wasn't.

Normally if you're jealous of someone, you stay away from them, but on social media, you idolise them and start hating yourself.

The pretty, popular girls in my school were called 'the blondes' and I wanted to emulate them - I knew I had to be pretty to be popular.  But the pressure's quite dangerous, and we now idolise extremes - no-one knows what a normal body image is any more.  

Emily, 22,  says idolising other girls was a contributing factor in her developing an eating disorder,
Emily, 22, says that posting selfies on social media allowed her to show off her weight loss (pictured when she was unwell with anorexia)

Emily, 22, (left) says idolising other girls was a contributing factor in her developing an eating disorder, and that posting selfies on social media allowed her to show off her weight loss (right)

Emily is now well again after years of therapy, but believes that social media is dangerous for young, vulnerable people going through a difficult time

Emily is now well again after years of therapy, but believes that social media is dangerous for young, vulnerable people going through a difficult time

It allows you to compare yourself to others obsessively. I remember a photo taken of me and the popular girls at 16 where my arm looked really fat compared to theirs. It made me feel terrible about myself and I'd keep going back to it - which made me even more upset. I was crying all the time and I thought I deserved to feel upset because I wasn't thin and pretty.

That picture was one of the things that triggered my anorexia in the last year of school. Then social media allowed me to show off my 'achievements' – how thin I was getting – in the hundreds of selfies I posted.

I'm well again after three years of therapy but social media is really dangerous for young, vulnerable people going through a difficult time.  Even now I feel I have to look and behave a certain way to have friends.

I have a good life, I don't need to prove I'm popular, but I know how easy it is to get sucked in.  I'm currently training and have to be careful not to start idolising some of the pictures of runners' bodies I see online with the #fitspo or #gymgirl hashtags and start feeling inadequate again.

Dove is currently running their #NoLikesNeeded Campaign to help girls see the only like that counts is their own. 

Learn more about the Dove Self-Esteem Project here.

DOVE'S TIPS FOR PARENTS  

Are you concerned about your daughter’s body confidence? 

Do you sometimes feel that social media networks can have a negative effect on your daughter’s self-esteem? Perhaps you just want to know the best way to talk with her about what’s going on.

Below are six tips from the Dove Self-Esteem Project to support you in having open conversations with a young girl in your life about her usage of social media.

Visit selfesteem.dove.co.uk to access the full range of self-confidence building tools and resources that have been developed by our experts at the Dove Global Advisory Board.

1. Real vs Online

Remind your daughter that social media is often like a showreel of life’s best bits – attention-grabbing, carefully edited and inflated. Real life isn’t like that and it’s important to encourage your daughter to acknowledge this, value what’s real and what really matters, especially in relation to friendships at this critical age.

2. True friendship

Encourage her to recognise that social media ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ aren’t necessarily true friends or even acquaintances, and therefore she should think carefully about what she’s sharing in the public domain.

3. Be a role model

Prioritise good friendships in your own life, too: be positive about the place your friends have in your life and make sure your daughter knows how much you value your own two or three closest friends – and how a wider network is great, but not quite the same as a dependable inner circle.

4. Online = forever

Discuss the long-term nature of the internet with her. Help her realise that online means forever – she can’t change something once it has been shared. And ensure she recognises the importance of understanding and setting up privacy settings for all her accounts.

 

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