When I get a lot of comments, likes, or re-tweets on a picture or post, I feel . . .
Special. Supreme. Better. Popular. Proud.
When my pictures or posts don’t get the responses I desire, I feel . . .
Upset. Disappointed. Worried no one likes me. Not as interesting, witty, or pretty. Ugly. Lonely. Not Cool. Deflated. Like I should delete it because it isn’t good enough.
The reason I feel like I don’t measure up to my friends is because . . .
Their personalities, looks, and talents overshadow mine. My life seems so boring. They are prettier, skinnier, or richer.
In my opinion, the biggest issues teens are faced with are . . .
Pressure to be perfect. Judgment. Trying to measure up. Stress.
To cope with stress, depression, or the way I am feeling, I have . . .
Binged. Purged. Restricted food. Abused alcohol. Used tobacco or drugs. Cut or burned myself. Been sexually active.
I cannot talk to my friends about these things because . . .
I don’t want them to know I’m struggling or feeling that insecure.
I cannot talk to my parents about these things because . . .
They won’t understand. They will get mad at me. I don’t want them to worry.
If these comments resonate with you, you are definitely not alone. These are just a sampling of the responses made by teenage girls to questions in an informal, online survey I developed to understand the effects of social media.
Whether it’s Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, Facebook or whatever new platform takes their place, social media constantly exposes you to what others are doing, how they look, and who they are with. For many habitual users of social media, this quickly leads down the destructive path of feeling less-than, as if they don’t measure up to those around them. As the pressure to be perfect mounts and their own perceived failures are magnified, it doesn’t take much to fall prey to self-pity, discontent, and depression. Even if this is not your experience, it’s unlikely that you have escaped the comparison game completely. Perhaps you find yourself on the other end of the spectrum, feeling as if you are winning the comparison competition because of how you look, what you have, or who you hang out with. But that has traps of its own, and you may have encountered some of them already.
I came up with the online survey when I discovered how social media had contributed to my own daughter’s false sense of worth. To be honest, I was caught off guard when I learned about her intense struggles with inadequacy. She’d always come across as confident, beautiful, popular, and successful. When I discovered that she felt like she was anything but that, it made me wonder if others who looked like they had it all together felt the same way she did.
My survey was informal and not associated with any scientific study. But as responses from other teenage girls came in, it confirmed that my daughter was not alone in her struggle. I was blown away by the number of teenage girls across the country, from big cities and small towns, in public school, private school, and home school environments, who expressed similar sentiments. I was filled with sadness, not just about the way technology does so much to encourage a distracted, disconnected culture, but about the deeper problems at the root of the more visible struggles that teenagers (and adults) experience.
Not feeling secure, valued, worthy, loved, accepted, or understood has led teenagers (and adults) to seek security, value, worth, love, and acceptance in sources that can never fully satisfy—nor are they meant to. Many of the things we try in order to feel better about ourselves lead nowhere and often only intensify our struggle. But when we are seeking to find our identity in them, it’s hard to turn away. The responses that teenage girls shared with me confirmed that a lot of problem behaviors have their roots in an identity crisis.
As a Christian, I believe that only Jesus can provide the deep security, value, worth, love, and acceptance we all long for. But I know that it’s sometimes hard to see what that looks like and how to find it. That is why I’ve written this. If you’ve been struggling with an identity crisis of your own— and maybe some behaviors and thoughts that intensify it—I hope you will find great hope in reading it. I hope, first, that you’ll see you are not alone and, second, that you’ll discover how to rest in your true identity, found only in him.
Excerpted from Face Time © 2017 by Kristen Hatton. Used by permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission. To purchase this and other helpful resources, please visit www.newgrowthpress.com