Counting blueberries for validation #influenceofsocialmedia

Faddy eating has always been an issue for woman and girls. Diets that encourage you to eat just one thing or ban food groups are endorsed by famous actresses and models however recently social media seems to added more momentum to the issue.

One student told me about her relationship with food and Instagram. She tells me that she has more likes on a bowl of blueberries that she made herself eat than a picture of what her mum would make her eat. And the less in the bowl, the more likes she will get. And we are not talking 10 or 20 less likes, one picture she showed me of 10 blueberries had 710 likes, where else a picture of banana, blueberries and some yogurt only had 4!

She goes on to tell me that her friends don’t get her, they talk behind her back but her friends on the internet get how she really feels. They see what she sees. So much so that she has set up a different account under a fake name. She can really be herself and say how she is feeling, no one at school or home knows about this account. She showed me the Instagram group, which had images of thigh gaps, famous people they wanted to look like which had obviously been photoshoped and IMG_1980thin bodies without any heads showing. And images of drinks or food, normally under the title of healthy or food that flushes out the impurities. Some food could only be described as hot water with lemon in it, or a piece of mint, apparently helped with the hunger pains.  Reading through the comments on her pictures, she is right, they do get exactly how she feels and are very supportive but what are they encouraging?  When I started to question the comments in front of her, she doubted my loyalties, shut down in front of me. She had been part of this community for two years and they had helped her through difficult periods in her life and are available 24/7.  Either people in these groups don’t sleep or are all over the world so she never felt alone, something she feels all the time when at school.

Luckily over time she is getting help from the right places with her eating issues and this will take some time but socially in school she is still very isolated. She doesn’t trust many staff and her friends don’t know what to do, they always seem to get it wrong. They want to be there but…….they worry they will make things worse or put their foot in it. They now like every photo of hers on Instagram, no matter what it is as they think it will help with her self worth. But she is clever enough to know what they are up to and now thinks they have talked about this behind her back, “are they all laughing at her?”

I know it’s been said before but the pressures teenagers are under are completely different with social media and I honestly don’t think we realise quite how influenced children are by strangers. Yet we have probably all felt like this. I am hoping that people will like this blog post and I will check my account every other day. Does this effect my self worth? I would love to say No that I am confident enough, but on a bad day?

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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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