Social Media’s Effect on Young Women


Amelia Gayle '23, Writer

In the past 10 years, social media has consumed the lives of young people everywhere. Despite all of the clear positives to the social media craze, it has had a profoundly negative effect on young people, particularly young women. Additionally, in the past 2-3 years, the video-sharing platform Tik Tok has absolutely dominated the social media scene along with pop culture in general. Virtually every young person in America has a Tik Tok, and the increased accessibility of social media to young girls, in particular, has had a devastating impact on women’s self-esteem and has resulted in the hypersexualization of teenage girls

Just from opening up Tik Tok, you are hit with literally hundreds of filters. These filters range from giving you funny backgrounds, crazy hair, or even being mini-games, to morphing the appearance of your face. Some of these filters apply makeup, have face thinning capabilities, and can even change your eyes and cheekbone shapes. Along with these filters, there are plenty of body morphing apps. Some of these are as advanced as software like Adobe Photoshop, or as simple as an app store download that can assist you in changing anything you want about yourself in less than 10 minutes. Social media has completely changed the game when it comes to the self-esteem of young girls. Young women in particular are put under the pressure of having to look perfect 24/7. Filters and apps allow for this to be achievable online, but these changes obviously don’t carry over into real life. Women who are professional influencers, getting paid to look beautiful on Tik Tok and Instagram, are morphing their bodies and applying filters, which is teaching young girls that they are SUPPOSED to look like the altered image put online. According to Steinsbekk, et al. (2020), there is a correlation between increased screen time and decreased self-esteem in young girls particularly. Social media makes it so easy for girls to compare themselves to one another, and in general, there is always going to be somebody who you feel is prettier than you, smarter than you, etc. And now they are inescapable online. 

Additionally, social media has hurt more than helped the women’s liberation movement. For years a woman’s value was placed on her virginity and her purity, girls were expected to wait for marriage and to view sex as a privilege they should remain quiet about rather than a natural and healthy part of being a human and having relationships. Recently, women have decided to push out their sexual liberation movement, taking back bodily autonomy and encouraging women to own their sexuality. This is conceptually amazing, women and men both deserve to be able to have sex with whomever they want, as often as they want, with consent from both parties, and not have a stigma around it. But, this has resulted in the increased sexualization of young women.

 Social media has created a trend for teenage girls to wear lingerie and corset tops as “shirts”, songs trend on Tik Tok for teenage girls to sing about how good they are at sex, how much they want to have sex with men, etc. Young girls are posting provocative dances and all of this content is unmonitored on the internet for any adult with bad intentions to find and use at their discretion. Once it’s on the internet and has been saved to someone’s camera roll, even if you delete it off your page, there is nothing you can do about it.  

This seems like a straightforward problem to solve; hypothetically if we talk about how the image that a lot of girls are putting on social media is dangerous, they’ll stop. But nothing is ever that easy. If you mention this movement as a problem on Tik Tok, your comment section will be flooded with teenagers calling you misogynistic or saying “You’re the problem if you think of teenage girls sexually,” which is true, but being attracted to young women and looking out for young women who are behaving dangerously online are two very different things. As someone who is 16, I have a completely different perception of my own femininity, my bodily autonomy, and my relationship with men online and in-person than how I did when I was 14, and I’m positive I’ll feel differently again as I get older. My personal advice to girls is to listen to the older women in their lives. Your mother, your older sister, your older friends, just want the best for you, and no matter how much you think you know about social media, relationships, etc. I promise there is more to learn. This applies to me as well, I am always experiencing, learning, etc., and that is okay.

This growing problem is not the fault of teenage girls. In a perfect world, women could dress and act however they want and wouldn’t have to worry about their safety, but that is not the world we live in. It is difficult to figure out how to combat misogyny when it is still so incredibly prevalent in culture, politics, and socialization. But what isn’t as hard to combat is internet predators. By monitoring what teenage girls are putting on social media, apps can unknowingly save hundreds of girls from having their videos or potentially private information shared on shady websites. Parents can teach their children about having a private account, reporting adults that make them uncomfortable, blocking peers making inappropriate comments about them, etc. It is unnecessary for apps and brands to push filters and have ambassadors who have altered their bodies. Young girls deserve better.