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Why We Need to Take Action Against the Toxicity of Social Media and its Effects on Girls’ Mental Health

Social media has many positive effects on society and how it operates, however, we cannot ignore how it impacts our mental health as females. According to a piece published in Forbes, most of the negative impacts social media has on us are due to what its presence takes away from us. This is referring to the amount of information the internet can extract from us purely based on the fact that we carry our phones around on a day-to-day basis.

Due to the ability of large corporations to monitor our likes, dislikes, comforts, and fears, we can easily be manipulated into believing a false reality. Our algorithms can determine when we are most vulnerable and likely to purchase something, creating an ad to pop up onto our Instagram feeds. Not only does this allow companies to target us for advertisements, but it causes girls to feel insecure and alone from a fake societal beauty standard captured online. 

Frances Haugen, a former Facebook product manager, recently released confidential documents of research providing insight into how the company promotes “more division, more harm, more lies, more threats and more combat.” It was also released that Facebook has allowed hateful conversation to the point of violence and harmful actions. Despite Facebook’s claims of working toward diversity and inclusion and combating hateful speech, the platform thrives on angry conversation and political debate. 

According to NPR, “another leaked study found 17% of teen girls say their eating disorders got worse after using Instagram.” During quarantine, it was easy for me to get dragged down a rabbit hole of toxic social media trends like quarantine diets, home workout culture, and anxiety-ridden eating habits. Although I could have avoided this difficult time, it was because of what my social media feeds presented to me that changed my way of thinking. It presented a false reality of what society portrays as the ideal woman. Thankfully, I quickly realized the practices I was developing were not okay and that I had to make a change. However, this is not how every scenario plays out. 

Social media should be used as a tool, not a weapon. It should highlight the beauty of our differences and imperfections, friends, and family. We’re supposed to lift each other up, not tear each other down. We can do this by promoting fueling our bodies with foods we crave, taking rest days, and sharing positive comments on posts. We can also focus on our internal beauty, what makes us human, and what makes up our radiant personalities.   

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Haley LaKind

U Mass Amherst '23

Haley LaKind is a junior Communication and Journalism double major on the Public Relations Track. She enjoys writing biweekly articles for Her Campus as well as running the chapter instagram page @hcumassamherst. Her hobbies include exercise, travel, journaling, and spending time with friends and family. At UMass she is also involved with UMass CHAARG and the Public Relations Club.
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