TOUGH COOKIES EDUCATION explores the real impact social media has on teen girls and we catch up with Izzy Whitely, the founder of ‘That’s what she said’ a social media movement which supports young girls to challenge societies norms.
ONE of Izzy Whitley’s favourite sayings is a quote from Frederick Douglass, he said ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men’ ‘That’s what we are trying to do here’ said; Izzy, the founder of ‘That’s what she said’ a social media movement which supports young girls to challenge societies norms.
Growing up can be hard work, even more so in this digital age with the added pressure of living in a media-driven world. Social media and body image are mentioned again and again as one of the reasons for an increase in mental health issues amongst young women.
A study released this year, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development surveyed 540,000 children aged 15 across countries worldwide. It reported that 15-year olds in the UK are one of the most miserable in the world, ranking eighth from the bottom out of 45 countries in relation to their life satisfaction, one in five girls blamed bullying and the pressures of social media for this.
Another report by the University of Manchester shows that self-harm has risen to nearly 70 per cent among 13 to 16-year-old girls in just three years, experts suggest the impact of digital media could be a reason behind this worrying issue.
Izzy, like many other teens, growing up, struggled with insecurities around self-image. As a young girl, she battled with eating disorders, body dysmorphia, depression, and self-harm. She set up ‘That’s what she said’ to offer young girls an alternative narrative to what they may see on social media.
She said ‘I felt pressured to look and be a certain type of girl. I needed to understand what I was happening and why I was feeling this way, and so I began to read up on feminism and different philosophies.
‘By doing this, I was able to make sense of my emotions and feelings and realised quickly that I was not the only girl to be feeling this way.
‘Recognising that many other young women faced these battles daily too, encouraged and motivated me to do something about it and the idea of ‘That’s what she said’ was born.’
‘That’s what she said’ began as a photography documentary project and an Instagram account, working in her old school, Izzy met with a group of young women to explore how they felt about growing up in a world where body image was everything.
Izzy said ‘It’s liberating to be given a space to explore and question the pressures that you are feeling, the girls involved in the project are given a safe space to do that.’
The project uses group work, written word and photography to capture the true thoughts and feelings of young women. Izzy hopes that these can be used to impact change. She explained;
‘That’s what she said aims to provide a voice for young girls and non-binary teens to act as a middleman between them and society.
‘There are constant messages and media coverage about what adults think is affecting teens but it is so rare we actually hear from them. We are trying to stay away from faceless facts and figures and share actual stories, opinions, and advice from girls and non-binary teens on how we can make a change.’
The website and project are set to re-launch soon with new initiatives including a magazine and video content. There will be more ways to get young people, not just girls involved. Izzy said:
‘We had such as great response to the work that we do, young people, parents, teachers, the press: lots of people were praising the movement and it feels like the time is now for a project like this’.
YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity championing the well-being and mental health of young people. Reports produced by YoungMinds state that 3 children in every classroom have a mental health problem.
Over 5000 young people told YoungMinds their top concerns are the impact of social media and the online world, lack of access to help, school stress and unemployment.
If you feel like social media is affecting your happiness and how you feel, it may be time for a social media detox.
We spoke to Geraldine Joaquim, a Clinical Hypnotherapist works to help people manage stress. She shared her expert top tips for using social media whilst keeping a happy and healthy mind. Geraldine said;
‘If you find you have a constant desire to check and re-check your social media, it could be a sign that it is taking over your life, rather than being a tool to enjoy.
‘A good tip to check in, is to start to monitor your feelings in response to viewing the social media accounts you engage with, think about how they make you feel? Do you feel bad, sad, lonely, negative? If so now could be time for a break.
‘Recognising the lure of social media is important too, understanding how it is designed to keep you engaged and so playing on a psychological weakness within the human psyche can be an eye-opener.
‘Just this week FB founding president Sean Parker stated ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’ – like fast food, it feeds our need for instant gratification. The key to managing it is in taking a step back and using it for enjoyment without allowing it to control your thoughts or actions.
‘Another top tip is to focus on real-life connections and events, positive interaction with real-life friends and family, consciously reducing time spent on your phone and laptop, will re-wire the brain to change compulsive behaviour.
‘Social Media is in our world, it affects many aspects of our lives and if used with eyes wide open, it can be a great fun. People need to take on board not everything is quite as it appears online, so have a big pinch of salt to hand!’
If you need to speak to someone about how you’re feeling, you can get information from http://www.youngminds.org.uk/find-help