Chloe Hill – Society’s perception of “perfection”

“Teenagers have it so easy nowadays”– I’ve heard this quote used frequently by adults to their stressed teenagers, telling them to make the most of the youth they have before life gets difficult, but there are becoming more and more reasons for me to disagree with this statement. The expectations that come with a 17 year old adolescent are growing rapidly from their parents, schools, friends and society itself.  The pressure to be “perfect” can be too much for some people, leading to depressionwhich can bring on further difficulties such as eating disorders and self-harm. A Healthline report states, “Treatment is important because teens with untreated depression are more likely to have social and school problems, abuse drugs and alcohol, become parents at a young age, and go on to experience adult depression and possibly suicide.”  But with the all-too obvious stigma that comes with a diagnosis of depression, can we really judge their reluctance?

So, as an 18 year old myself, what do I class as perfection? Perfect grades, a perfectly set out future, perfect hair and the perfect body? These are all pressures that young adults have to face every day, in debatably the hardest time in their life as it isBut is the pressure any worse now that it was 30 years ago, or is it just much more publicised?

Personally, I think a lot of the pressure is to be placed with social networking and blogging sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and many more, which have only become widely available in recent years. A study by Cyber Sentinel and published in The Daily Telegraph shows that the average teenagers spends 31 hours per week on the internet, spending a large proportion of these hours trawling through these social networking websites and looking up topics brought about by current pressures, such as cosmetic surgery, diet planning and weight loss methods. The models shown on such websites represent a figure and lifestyle that makes young adults believe that is what they must look like in order to be successful, and when so much time is being spent looking at them, it’s not surprising that image becomes transfixed in their mind. In a study by Stirling University in 2009, one in five school children said the internet, including social networking sites, influenced their decision to self-harm, a figure I find very believable.

But what can be done to help? Should parents be limiting internet access to their children, or is it up to someone else to notice the pressure piling up before it become too much? In my opinion, teenagers are the most unlikely age group to admit they think there’s something wrong with them, for fears of being judged further. So what can be done to stop them going to drastic measures to become “perfect”?

Chloe Hill
Intern, Institute of Mental Health

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Chloe Hill – Society’s perception of “perfection”

  1. chrisbeeleyimh

    Interesting post. I would suggest taking the survey results you cite from Cyber Sentinel with a pinch of salt though. They clearly are a private company with their own agenda (i.e. the internet is dangerous, pay us to protect your children) and some of the findings seem a little strange. One whole hour looking at cosmetic surgery every week? Really? Another hour and a half looking at family planning? This seems like a lot but I imagine a lot of parents wish their teenagers spent this much time thinking about contraception.

    New types of media have been blamed for every type of social crisis you can imagine over the years (paperback novels were going to cause society to crumble at one point). Social media are just that- social. The news and fashion media in this country have a lot to answer for, in my opinion, in terms of objectifying and demeaning women (witness the Daily Mail website and any of the adverts spawned from the colossal machine dedicated to selling clothing and cosmetics to women using airbrushed and unrealistic images of women). Page 3 of the Sun not only still lives and breathes in this day and age but is even championed and protected by Murdoch’s vicious attack dogs (witness the reaction to Clare Short’s questioning of the phenomenon- “Fat and jealous”).

    I think we all have a responsibility to shun and decry those who profit from trading in these damaging and unreal images, and perhaps one day social media will be full of happy confident individuals saying “Just had a sandwich- lol” and “Read any good books lately?”.

  2. Rosemary Cantwell

    5 October 2012

    Dear Ms Hill

    Thank you very much for such a thought-provoking blog.

    Shakespeare had it right in the 7 Ages of Man I believe.

    And Moliere “Medecin malgre lui”.

    And Voltaire “Candide”

    Best wishes

    Rosemary Cantwell

  3. Pingback: Bree Hernandez ~ An Alarming Trend on College Campuses Around the Nation | IMH Blog (Nottingham)

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