We Need to Become Better Social Media Role Models

As 90s babies, my peers and I have grown up in a world where we have been constantly exposed to media, and pressured to present ourselves online in a manner that makes us look “cool”. Nowadays, starting from ages as young as four or five, young children are being exposed to the media in both positive and negative forms. Kids see trailers for the latest Disney movie and commercials for the McDonald's Happy Meal, in addition to explicit language and inappropriate imagery.

Although media exposure in general affects the way that young girls present themselves on social media, when it comes down to it, I believe that the way that we as college women portray ourselves on social media has just as large of an impact on those young girls who often look up to us. We are role models for young girls, whether we realize it or not. Young girls need to learn that  “sexy” doesn’t need to be revealing cleavage and wearing short skirts—sexy can just as easily be depicted in by an authentic laughing candid that shows your beautiful smile. I believe that we have a responsibility as women, in life and on social media, to present our true, genuine selves to be role models for girls who are growing up learning to do the opposite.

The first way I think we can accomplish this is by eliminating Finstas, or fake Instagrams. The idea that a Finsta is for images that you would never post on your normal Instagram (because it shows the weird sides of who you are) causes your real Instagram account to become a fake portrayal of who you are. This leads girls to see themselves as inferior, and they might begin to fear the possibility of social rejection from others who might not approve of who they truly are.

As roles models for young girls, we need to start showing our true selves in all areas of life including on social media. Start by deleting your Finsta, and post whatever you want on your Instagram account. You have the right to be yourself on social media—even when society tells you to be someone else. By taking this step, we are showing younger girls that what is really “cool” is the confidence that it takes to just be yourself.

I also think as young adults we know the difference between what is appropriate to be posting on social media, and what is not. Using our best judgment, I think we can create social media profiles that represent positive, healthy, and meaningful lifestyles. We owe it to those younger than us (and ourselves) to be mindful of what we post. Refrain from using offensive language and sharing inappropriate pictures. You never know who is going to see them, whether it is future employers, family members, or young girls who look up to you. No matter what, we should be presenting an image that you would be proud of if a young girl said that she wanted to be like that too.

Finally, I think we need to cut down on social media use as a whole. Eliminating Fintas and discontinuing the use of inappropriate language and pictures is a great start, but we live in a world where 24% of teens are online almost constantly . We need to cut down our media use, and be the ones who change the way we use media. We can start by posting less, looking less, and deleting accounts that don't matter.

There is so much time we could be using to volunteer, get lunch with a family member, grab coffee with a friend, read a book or a newspaper, explore where we live, learn how to knit, educate ourselves on the world around us, or contribute to positive social change in our communities.

We have the power to change the way young girls use media. That change will start with you, and that change needs to start now.