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"It has a big effect on young women’s self-esteem."

Recent Facebook documents have revealed the shocking truth that it knows Instagram is toxic for young women – Emily, aged 17, shares her story with Solent Mind.

A young lady using a laptop

Sometimes looking though Instagram posts of supposedly ‘perfect women’ or ‘bikini bodies’ I can definitely feel upset. Though it has never, personally, got to me to the point where I feel like I need to go on a diet or change things about myself.

But I know from other people’s experience, it has impacted on how they feel about the way they look, and they have done things to change that.

If you’re not skinny enough, people feel the need to change that by going on a diet or, unfortunately, some young women even starve themselves to try to obtain the perfect body.

I know lots of young women whose self-esteem has been affected. They constantly feel like they aren’t good enough; when, in reality, these women with supposedly perfect bodies will take hours getting the best photo.

The photo you see of them, though, is not how they appear all the time – it’s actually only a curated picture which represents a fraction of their day. The pictures you see of women with the ‘perfect body’ are not reality. No one has the perfect body, and their pictures give false representations of how women should be.

I do think bullying on Instagram, and all social media outlets, is a big issue. It has a big effect on young women’s self-esteem. If they don’t post the ‘perfect picture’ they often get trolled for it.

This can have a huge effect on mental health, particularly for young women. It can cause self-harming and extreme dieting etc.

I think something like 40% of cyber bullying happens on Instagram. Again, I have never been personally affected by it, but I know people who have. It stems from things such as calling someone ugly and sometimes it can go as far as telling people to kill themselves.

I only use Instagram as a way of communicating with friends, with whom I can’t communicate in other ways. I don’t spend hours scrolling through photos. I also unfollow any accounts that I know aren’t making me feel positive or have negativity surrounding them.

I focus, instead, on positive things I enjoy, such as reading a book, calling friends, keeping myself busy with stuff that needs to be done. I know that scrolling through Instagram is only going to make me feel worse.

So, surrounding yourself with positive things you enjoy will have a huge positive impact on your mental health, making you feel better overall.

Regarding those women who constantly take pictures of themselves to post on Instagram, I think it’s just a competition about who can take the best photo and look the best. This is how their personal value is determined.

Lots of young women’s self-esteem depends on ‘likes’. If they get enough, that means they’re good enough, if they don’t, it means they’re not good enough. In real life some young women might have no real friends, but online have lots of these virtual followers.

Jamie Dippie, the Children, Young Persons and Family Lead for Solent Mind, has advised:

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