teens

Billi FitzSimons: A young woman's life on social media from 13 to 19.

Suncorp
Thanks to our brand partner, Suncorp

I wake up in the morning, rub my eyes, taste my morning breath with regret and then, of course, grab my phone. I check Instagram even before I know what the time is.

I look at the ‘likes’ I received on the photo I posted last night. ‘Thank God it got over 100’ I think. It’s so nice when you feel so much acceptance from your followers. I make sure I get back to the comments people left, tag them all and give them a love heart.

I then go through my feed. I scroll, and scroll, and scroll. I see photos of girls with perfectly-structured-and-ridiculously-in-proportion bodies.

‘Wow she is incredible,’ I think. ‘Damn I wish my body looked like that,’ I compare. ‘How can I make myself look like that?’ I contemplate.

A good 30 minutes goes by without me even noticing.

*****

It’s a self-obsessed, self-destructive ritual. And one that I, and many other young women of my generation, know all too well.

We were guinea pigs for growing up with social media. I created my Instagram account when the app was launched back in 2010, and have maintained my profile ever since – I’m now 19.

Being teenage girls, our insecurities are as high as our confidence can be low. You’re learning about yourself in every way: appreciating where your strengths lie and conceding your weaknesses. Puberty arrives, you’re growing taller (or not), getting pimples (or not), growing boobs (or not), experiencing your first kiss (or not).

It is a teenage rite of passage, and you don’t know any better than to look around and compare yourself to others.

And where is the worst place in the world for comparing yourself? Social media.

For a lot of us teenagers, Instagram looks like this: you’re sitting on the couch in your tracky dacks after eating a bag of maltesers while having your period. You go on Instagram to avoid studying for a maths exam tomorrow morning and see an endless amount of bronzed-up, smoothed-down babes with thigh gaps you could fit an apple in between, flat stomachs that I didn’t even have when I was 10 years old and bums with the tiniest bit of string you’ve ever seen up them.

You look down and you’re bloated, your thighs are touching and you have a maths exam tomorrow morning.

‘Fml’ we sigh.

"And where is the worst place in the world for comparing yourself? Social Media." (Image: Getty)
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But what I have learned over time, is that most people we follow, if not all, are presenting and promoting their ideal version of themselves - we all emphasis certain aspects of our lives, and omit others.

Going to parties? Share. Going to the beach? Share. Graduated? Share. On holiday? Share.

Fighting with your family? Don't share. Having a breakdown due to stress? Don't share. Being bullied at school? Don't share. Photo of you looking 'fat'? Delete.

What's more is that there is a mindset adopted by many that the amount of attention you receive on social media equates to your level of social acceptance.

The obvious mostly escapes us: this is all superficial social acceptance which translates into superficial self-confidence.

Getting self-assurance from social media seems great, but the problem is that it is not reliable and not tangible.

"The obvious mostly escapes us: this is all superficial social acceptance which translates into superficial self-confidence." (Image: Supplied)

If you look on YouTube there are hundreds of videos on how to get an 'Instagram perfect selfie' or tutorials on 'Instagram perfect makeup'. Almost all that I have seen tell me to overdraw my lips, contour my cheekbones and put on fake lashes.

In short, pretty much everything my mum always told me, and still tells me, not to do.

With less 'authenticity' online, it is becoming harder for any teenage girl to feel confident in her own skin.

When I was in my mid-teens, I really did rely on my Instagram to give me a lot of my confidence - and I can tell you I have never been more insecure than in those couple of years.

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And I was not alone.

From eating disorders to girls photoshopping their images to make themselves look much skinnier, it is a sad truth that teenage girls will go to extreme lengths to feel that sense of acceptance and self-worth.

Parents really are crucial at teaching young girls how to not get caught up in this world.

Sometimes, we won't listen to you straight away. Sometimes we won't understand why you're saying certain things. But in the end, your help in shaping our confidence cannot be underestimated.

My mum has been crucial in teaching me about self-confidence. (Image: Supplied)

My mum has always taught me not to rely on how I look, and not to alter how I look for anyone - and that includes for people on social media.

My mum has taught me that to draw your sense of self-worth from an audience of people most of whom you will never meet is a guaranteed pathway into insecurity.

She always pulls me up if she sees I'm following someone she isn't comfortable with. And she shows me accounts that she thinks will inspire me - from Celeste Barber to Daria Gavrilova to Turia Pitt.

She's taught me to be confident in who I am - to accept all my flaws and celebrate all my strengths.

She has showed me that self-confidence comes from working hard, from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and teaching me that no sustainable self-confidence can be gained on Instagram.

And, most importantly, she's demonstrated to me that self-confidence comes from constantly improving who I am in real life, and not who my ideal self is on Instagram.

What's your experience with teenagers and social media? Share your thoughts with us below.

If you want more information about building confidence in teenage girls, visit Suncorp's #TeamGirls website - a helpful resource for parents and teens alike.

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Suncorp.

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