Girls and Social Media
With more girls than ever reporting that they feel sad or hopeless, The Gospel Coalition’s Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra talks with Martha Manikas-Foster about social media’s impact on girls. They also talk about the precautions adults might put in place before approaching social media as a mission field.
More girls than ever feel sad or hopeless. Social media may be the reason why.
“In 2009, we know about a third of American high school girls had persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” reports Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, senior writer and faith-and-work editor for The Gospel Coalition. “But by last year, so this is about 10 years later, it was up to 57 percent. Which is the highest recorded level of teenage sadness ever.”
Zylstra observes that the increase in sadness tracks with the rise of smartphones and social media. Smartphones make it possible to check on your internet friends more often than when you had to wait until you opened your laptop to get connected.
How we spend our time makes its mark on us, and girls are averaging five hours a day on social media. During those hours girls are comparing themselves with others–often people they don’t know in person—and they repeatedly feel that they fall short.
Disembodied online relationships impact us differently from in-person friendships, Zylstra says, in part because when you walk alongside a friend, you see them on both their good days and bad days. Online you see only the best snapshots of a person’s day. “And if you have 500 friends,” Zylstra says, “every day somebody’s having a good day somewhere. But you’re constantly feeling like, ‘My day never measures up.’”
Listen in on our 18-minute conversation about the impact this is having. You’ll also hear Zylstra’s suggestions for how adults who feel called to on-line ministry might wisely approach social media as a mission field.