How Many Likes is Enough?

flea sunny evening

I wrote recently about Flea’s sleepovers with friends and how they’ve changed in the last few years.

Where the kids used to show up with soft toys and Haribo, now they’re showing up with laptops and iPads.

And a big part of their tech life revolves around social media – especially Instagram and Twitter.

I’m sure I’m not the only Mum to worry just how this exposure to social media, and all its associated narcissism is affecting our daughters.

According to some recent research from Dove, it’s not looking particularly good. Dove found that:

  • 50% of young women and girls are connected to a social network “all the time”
  • One in four girls said they’d rather have 50 likes than a hug
  • On average, girls spend 12 minutes preparing for a photo, and take 9 photos before choosing one they’re happy to post

Scary, isn’t it? 

I see some of this behaviour in my niece, who’s in her mid teens. Her Instagram account – just like those of her friends – is a carefully curated gallery of posed images and collages. Pictures that don’t generate enough ‘likes’ are deleted, and although she posts regularly, after two years, only around 50 photos have made the grade and remain on her account permanently.

The comments and likes are hugely political – it’s all about who comments,  who’s first, who’s tagged, who’s in your profile description, who can compliment the popular kids most effusively – for a truly alarming insight into the politics of tween girls and Instagram, check out this absolute must-read article from Time magazine.

flea selfie

At ten, Flea is not quite yet thrown into this maelstrom – although she has an Instagram account, she – like most of her friends – uses it haphazardly, their photos a mixture of cute pets and goofy photos of them being idiots, solo and in groups.

I chatted with Flea today about likes and selfies, and she recognises that some of her friends do already have a “selfie face” and that she already sees some of the girls in particular chasing likes and playing popularity games with their profiles. For her, though, it seems pointless.

“I mean, I suppose it’s nice if someone likes a photo, but someone double-clicking a photo virtually isn’t the same as someone coming up and asking about your day, or saying something nice to you,” said Flea.

I hope that this level of confidence survives the transition into high school next year, but I suspect it’s going to be an ongoing battle.

flea selfie

Perhaps tools like those developed by Dove can help in that battle – the Dove Self Esteem Project was started in 2004 as a way to help young girls reach their full potential and develop good self-esteem. DSEP is the sponsor of Women in the World, a global summit that brings together extraordinary female leaders and change-makers to help increase body confidence and self-esteem in young people.

At this year’s Summit, Dove kicked off the new #NoLikesNeeded campaign to show girls that, while today’s socially driven landscape can amplify beauty-related anxieties, the only ‘like’ that counts is their own. By using the #NoLikesNeeded hashtag, girls will be urged to reconsider our image-obsessed culture, their personal ‘branding’ and the changing perceptions of body image, identity and self.

Some amazing Tots100 bloggers have been taking part in the campaign over recent weeks and I urge you to check out their experience of using social media like their teen daughters – they make for sobering reading – it’s not cheerful but I do believe it’s important. We need to support and educate our girls in this new landscape. Life’s about so much more than perfecting your pout and putting yourself out there for virtual friends, acquaintances and strangers to pass judgement – particularly if you end up feeling like you’re coming up short as a result. Check out the links below.

flea selfie

In the meantime, I’d love to know how you help your teen girls resist the siren lure of chasing likes on social media – do you have any tips?

#NoLikesNeeded posts by:

5 thoughts on “How Many Likes is Enough?”

  1. This made me think about your recent post about choosing a secondary school. Asking about their social media rules and policies, and what else they do to encourage healthy social media use, could be an important plank in making the decision. When you think about it, the approach to social media that a child imbibes and learns in their teen years is going to be more useful in the long term than all that geography or chemistry.

  2. This is scary! I’ve noticed with my niece who is 5 she has a selfie face which to be honest looks stupid but i’ve seen the hands over the face/ shocked look on alot of teenage account so thats how there picking it up.

    The statement about wanting 50 likes more than a hug is very sad. I suspect it will only get worse as younger and younger cxhildre have access to social media and its influences.

  3. oh it all makes my head hurt a bit really I just like d ponies and playing monopoly in my early teen years . Popularity and how you look is the curse of girl teen years isn’t it? mind you it seeps o into adult hood too doesnt it i see lots of twenty something s doing that bizarre trouty face pose. and I too get excited by IG likes (but usually for a craft!!)

  4. Ellie @ Hand Me Down Baby

    Oh that Times article made my head spin and my heart ache at the same time!
    And who knows what the landscape will look like in the future when my little girl gets involved. Eek!

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