Some websites are meant for us to market ourselves. LinkedIn and monster.com allow you to create a profile, list your positive attributes, and connect with people who might be interested in hiring you. Other social media sites were made for artistic expression, for connecting with friends, for showing our true selves, but some of these sites, Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram for example, have become places where we market, and create, our ideal selves.
Facebook is meant for connecting and sharing. But due to social aspirations and expectations, for many teens and young adults it has become a place to quantify how “liked” we are, or essentially, how good we are. I have observed peers who ask their friends to “Like” a photo in order to get plenty of “Likes”, or who will delete a photo from Facebook if it doesn’t get enough “Likes” in a certain amount of time. This manipulation of our true lives has lead to an unhealthy expectation that everything that we do must be approved by others to be worthy.
The Tumblr’s of many teens, especially teenage girls, are also often made to portray a certain life style, often one the of young, thin, white, carefree, sun-soaked teenager, and one that many girls strive to have, on and off Tumblr. This obsession (and it is for many) has lead to destructive behavior in many teen girls, such as eating disorders and self hate.
While these social media sites can be a form of expression or of sharing our experiences, they can easily turn into stressful environments where a simple picture becomes a statement of who we are, or who we aren’t. Many companies are moving towards a more “honest” way of advertising, like American Eagle’s “Aerie” brand featuring models who are not retouched, Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, and Seventeen Magazine’s “No Photoshop Pledge”. Hopefully these advertisers are strong enough that they can reach the young girls who are learning to advertise themselves.