Health > Young people living in the digital age

Posted on September 28, 2017

Abiona Boja explores the real life implications of growing up online
Like any other teenager, I spend a lot of my time online, probably too much time if you ask my mum. It’s a space to be social, to be creative, and to learn. But what does living in this digital hyperreality really mean, and how do we navigate ourselves around this maze?

Whilst many of us will be familiar with social media, many don’t consider where the information that we post goes, and into whose hands it falls.

According to digital marketing company Custard, 75% of Brits lie about their lives on social media. In most cases this is just harmless embellishment to make us seem more desirable. But in some cases, people don’t just exaggerate their talents or lower their age; they create whole new identities to lure and manipulate the most vulnerable users on the Internet.

We’re all guilty of enhancing ourselves to appear as close to our perception of ‘perfect’ as we can, but when do the filters and special effects stop becoming fun, and start becoming toxic?

“I’m too short.” “I’m too fat.” “If only I had straight hair.” “If only I looked like this model and that singer.”

From the very moment that we are given access to the Internet we surrender our individualism and confidence to become a play-thing…

The phenomenon of comparing ourselves to airbrushed, heavily made-up, filtered models is one that has existed long before social media. However, this appears to have become amplified with the creation of instant posting.

Witnessing these toxic body standards online has definitely had an impact on young people’s self image. It is estimated that 1 in 50 people, mostly teenagers, are affected by body dysmorphia disorder; a disabling preoccupation with perceived defects or flaws in appearance.

What starts as a fun way to document our lives, can become an unhealthy obsession, causing chaos for our self-confidence.

I’ll be the first to admit that as a 13-year-old girl, I was completely and utterly obsessed with the thigh gap fad that swept the Internet. At the time, young girls swarmed to the Internet in search of the most obscure, and faddish diets. Tall, blonde, and svelte Victoria’s Secret models became the aspiration, but almost as quick as it had taken the world by storm, the thigh gap was out, and thick thighs and big bums were in.

I used to believe it was much easier for young men. However, according to a survey by a body of advertising experts Credos, boys are incredibly reluctant to open up about body pressures. 23% of boys admit to believing there is such a thing as the ‘ideal’ male body type. While nearly 70% of these boys admitted the pressure came from their friends.

The fear of being seen as effeminate or weak, can loom over many boys like a dark cloud

The fear of being seen as effeminate or weak, can loom over many boys like a dark cloud. They often find themselves competing with each other for
‘bro-points’ (means of quantifying the values and actions of a friend) and girls.

From the very moment that we are given access to the Internet, I feel that we surrender our individualism and confidence to become a play-thing for fashion brands, to fat-shame and mock all in the name of Haute Couture.

But now, a new trend has formed. An army of body-positive warriors, who love how they look and don’t care who knows it. The Women’s Equality party helped launch the #NoSizeFitsAll campaign on twitter in 2016. Part of the campaign insisted on the use of plus size and curvy models for London Fashion Week, rather than just the usual androgynous, waif-like prototype.

This legion of women and girls who come in every shape and size, have banded together to use the Internet for good. So long, to the days of male chauvinism, and women projecting their insecurities onto other women. It appears that the close arrival of the ‘20s is heralding in a digital prohibition era, where women and girls alike are giving Internet trolls their just deserts.

This episode of Exposure Listens features seven young people and their experiences as a generation who have come to know the world through the Internet.

Our thanks to John Lyon’s Charity for making this project possible.


Abiona Boja
Abiona Boja is currently an A Level student studying English Lit, Sociology and History. She has taken part in a variety of project work for Exposure, and is particularly interested in politics and broadcast journalism. Abiona would like to go to Cambridge to study International Relations, and pursue a career as a news presenter.


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2 Responses to Young people living in the digital age

  1. Jonathan Bumembe October 17, 2017 at 11:37 am #

    The younger generation is getting more and more tied to social media without knowing the dangers of using it extensively. I like this article because it gives a wider look at how this digital age can be seen as harmful to ourselves and other.

  2. Sophia October 27, 2017 at 11:08 am #

    This gives an intriguing insight into how technology and social media has affected young people and how they view themselves. It’s scary to see how much influence social media has over our lives and how much we can be affected.

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