There is a growing panic around young people and social media, especially during lockdown. Social media use has boomed during Covid-19, with a study from April 2020 revealing that nearly 47% of people spent longer on social media during lockdown.
Girls themselves have expressed worries about their wellbeing in the face of an all consuming, 24-hour media. In a poll by Girlguiding, 35 per cent of girls aged 11-21 said their biggest concern online was comparing themselves to others, and 45 per cent felt pressure to check their phones as soon as they wake up and just before they go to sleep.
The problem is intensifying and the stakes seem to be getting higher. Social media is a huge presence in the lives of young women. Rather than just limiting usage, how can we make the experience a positive and enriching one?
Our Disrupt Your Feed research tackles this worrying concern, and we found a simple solution to start improving teenage girls social media health. The simple intervention was a tailored list of inspirational women to follow. By simply following different kinds of women, your whole feed will change. The algorithms will alter and the platform will start suggesting different people to follow. Instead of being stuck in a bubble, seeing the same type of people over and over, our suggestions disrupted the feed. And the effect of this disruption was far-reaching.
93% of teen girls said that their outlook improved after following more inspirational figures due to higher self-esteem and setting goals for themselves. They were now following people they admired. They felt positive about their social media feeds. One girl said: “My social media use was actually quite toxic so I think it’s shown me that my usage was harmful to myself…”
Apart from just feeling better, there were practical benefits too. They found out about careers and opportunities that they hadn’t known about. They discovered that following certain people could give guidance and vision.
“It’s given me a completely different outlook… I didn’t know if [social media] could be used for that…” another girl told us.
The results of the study proved to us that there really is a way to make social media healthier for girls. It is an inexpensive and simple intervention, one that could easily be to rolled out in schools.
Aside from introducing girls to a more diverse range of female role models, Disrupting The Feed also encourages an active and mindful approach to social media, which is a stance we hope girls take in all areas of their lives. Rather than passively following and consuming content suggested by an algorithm, instead of unthinkingly scrolling through pictures that make you feel unhappy and powerless, they can take action. We want girls to believe in their own agency and power. To dream big and take the lead in their lives.
How can you get involved today?
Our Social Media Pledge turns our main findings into four easy guidelines for young people to use.
1.Download the social media pledge image
2.Post the pledge on your social media channel with the hashtag #DisruptYourFeed. Please share across as many of your social channels as possible.
3. Nominate someone you respect & who empowers you to get involved and share the pledge!
Thank you to Maria Filler for creating our pledge illustration!
To download the full Disrupting the Feed report or the Executive Summary, click here.
Tell us about how you have been spreading positive social media use with #DisruptYourFeed by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org