I would not want to be a teenager again for all the tea in China (and I love tea), all those hormones flying about, all that navel gazing, all that ‘trying to find myself’, all that insecurity all mixed up with a blind self belief that I knew better than anyone who was over 20 and that old people knew Nothing.
I’d quite like the time to lie on my bed reading books until my eyes hurt and I’d love to be back in my mate’s bedroom singing into a hairbrush to Duran Duran and pouring over copies of Smash Hits and Just 17 – but only for a day.
When I was a teenager I had lengthy telephone conversations with my friends, one at a time or we’d go out in a group for a bit of a wander and a natter and then we’d all go home, watch a bit of telly, read a book and go to bed.
Things are very different for my daughter who is living in a world where communication is available 24 hours a day with the tap of a phone screen so when Dove asked me if I would accept a challenge to take on the social media routines of 13-23 year olds for the day I agreed to give it a bash.
I set up my office so that I was connected to Facebook via my computer and my phone all day long with notifications switched on so that I would know instantly when anyone posted something or ‘liked’ an update of mine. I also opened windows for Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr so that I could check in on activity there throughout the day.
I nearly went mad. It was distracting and mind numbing, my concentration and productivity levels dropped like a stone. Every time I started something the ping would call my attention. I felt uncomfortable if I didn’t manage to respond to someone the minute they pinged me, I felt uncomfortable with the amount of stuff I was seeing about people’s everyday lives, I didn’t need all this in my head and I really didn’t need to be worrying about how many people had ‘liked’ my photos.
That one stopped me in my tracks – how have we reached a state where young women would prefer a fleeting ‘like’ than the comfort and reassurance of a hug?
I had to post photos to my Facebook account all day long – I usually post one every day or so with big gaps between uploads. I posted five and it felt like too many – I even posted my morning cuppa with a little ‘poem’ about how little sleep I’d had due to Boy 2 heading to Germany at 4am.
I really liked that my posts and pictures with the #NoLikesNeeded hashtag sparked conversation and interest with people expressing real concern at the amount of time and energy young women are putting into social media and the effect that must be having on both their self esteem and their ability to function in daily life.
- It takes her ages to do a simple homework and her concentration for anything other than social based stuff is now pretty low. When she can’t access it on holidays, she says how different she feels and will get into reading books after a weaning off period!
- I can imagine it all feels a bit suffocating
The next part of the challenge was to take a ‘selfie‘, not my usual ‘quick pic with one of my kids, grinning inanely or scowling a bit, always scruffy’ type selfie but a picture put together as I might if I were a teenage girl.
I washed my hair, I put on some make up, I changed my shirt, I took my glasses off – I felt uncomfortable and exposed, putting myself out there to be ‘liked’ or passed over. It was horrible.
I kept checking in to see if I had any more likes on my selfie. As I press Publish on this post my selfie has 38 Likes on Facebook and 16 on Instagram.
I did find myself grinning when people were nice about my photo, it did make me feel good – of course it did – but I don’t need those likes to validate myself, I’m nearly 50 and I’m comfortable in my well-worn skin. But it breaks my heart that so many young women are paying the price of our image based culture, that they are defining themselves by the way they look, not by what they do and that they are looking for validation not in the arms of the people who love them but by the number of likes they get on a posed image.
The Dove Self-Esteem Project (DESP) was started in 2004 as a way to help young girls reach their self-esteem and realise their full potential. DESP is the sponsor of Women in the World, a global summit that brings together extraordinary female leaders and change-makers to help increase body confidence and self-esteem in young people. This year, Women in the World is taking place on Oct 8 and 9 in London, at Cadogan Hall.
At the Summit, Dove is kicking off the new #NoLikesNeeded campaign to show girls that, while today’s socially driven landscape can amplify beauty-related anxieties, the only ‘like’ that counts is their own. By using the #NoLikesNeeded hashtag, girls will be urged to reconsider our image-obsessed culture, their personal ‘branding’ and the changing perceptions of body image, identity and self.
I am happy to put my voice to this campaign in an effort to get the message out to our wonderful young women. Parents, mentors and teachers can download materials and educational tools to boost self-esteem and increase body confidence in young people at www.selfesteem.dove.co.uk If you want to follow the campaign the hashtags are #NoLikesNeeded and #DoveSelfEsteemProject.
And now – the picture after the uncomfortable selfie, which I MUCH prefer – my 15-year-old hugger jumped in and chaos ensued! I don’t care that you can see the grey in my hair and the bags under my eyes – this is me and she, doing our thing.
This is a paid collaboration which I am delighted to be a part of.