Fake ideals and fake online lives causing harm

(Title Image: via Senedd TV)

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) used her short debate yesterday to raise the issue of pervasive lifestyle trends on social media and the negative impact they have on self-esteem.

“A clear sense of bemusement”

Bethan compared some of the lifestyle and appearance trends started by social media influencers with those of women’s magazines when she was growing up, sometimes causing anxiety over how you’re supposed to look and sometimes causing bemusement – like the “finger trap test”, “thighbrows” and “Barbie feet”.

She also repeated a warning about the dangers of fake news:

“I’ve talked about the rise of fake news here before, and what might be surprising is that most fake news, fake articles and false images are shared by older people. We have a growing crisis, fuelled online, of men joining right-wing groups and chat rooms, where anti-women, racist and violent rhetoric and false news are shared and encouraged.”
– Bethan Sayed AM

Social media lifestyle ideals lead to families falling into debt in an attempt to present the perfect image, while people have lost something by living their lives online instead of taking part in “real” conversations in-person.

Jack Sargeant AM (Lab, Alyn & Deeside) said social media was constantly with us and putting images in front of us which were causing real harm – such as encouraging suicide and eating disorders.

Lynne Neagle AM (Lab, Torfaen) called back to the Children & Young People’s Committee report on children’s mental health – one of the findings being the negative impact of social media.

Distorted perceptions

Replying on behalf of the government, Finance Minister & Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower), said children growing up today won’t remember a time before the internet. It’s a useful tool that we may now struggle to do without, but it was important to navigate it safely and responsibly.

“But of course, online safety isn’t the only issue, as we’ve heard—body image and body shaming, distorted perceptions caused by filters and photoshopping are all causing very real problems for people today. Every day we’re faced by messages that tell us that we just aren’t good enough. We see so many images of people who are apparently perfect and we don’t actually see the many layers of filters or the numerous deleted images that have gone before.”
– Finance Minister, Rebecca Evans

5th February is Safer Internet Day, which the Welsh Government will be supporting and additional resources relating to mental health and the internet have been published, as well as Trust Me Cymru – an education initiative for both primary and secondary school pupils to think critically about things they come across online.