Far from easy, breezy

The idea of being an easy, breezy beautiful cover girl takes on a whole meaning when teen girls are looking to their social media profiles to portray themselves as the model, spokeswoman, and sometimes even the centerfold. Randye Hoder explores how teenage girls are being haunted by a perpetual lens and are forced into a constant maintenance of beauty and appearance. In “For Teenage Girls, Facebook Means Always Being Camera-Ready”, Hoder writes from a parent’s perspective on how Facebook is enabling society to pressure teenage girls to focus on their outer beauty and to stress its importance to others.

A recent trend on Facebook has been the option to “Share” an image, thus resurfacing it on your Friends’ news feeds. This technological affordance adds to Hoder’s explanation, “The formula is simple: The more “Likes” you get, the more popular you appear”. Popularity seems to be one of the foremost issues to teen girls. By frequently re-asserting one’s image, teen girls are aiming to gain attraction and Likes to their photo and page and subsequently have their Friends find more things to Like about them in the social media site as well as in the physical world. Society even shows these girls the importance of repetition of imagery to create a persona. danah boyd, in her work on “Why Youth ❤ Social Media”, shows how teens have learned to enhance their publicity and gain some celebrity through social media. She states, ” It is not accidental that teens live in a culture infatuated with celebrity—the “reality” presented by reality TV and the highly publicized dramas (such as that between socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie) portray a magnified (and idealized) version of the networked publics that teens are experiencing, complete with surveillance and misinterpretation. The experiences that teens are facing in the publics that they encounter appear more similar to the celebrity idea of public life than to the ones their parents face.”

Teen girls especially are being confronted by media images that stress the importance of beauty and perfection forcing them to critically analyze and craft their own appearance. Technology also has forced young girls to be “camera-ready” at all times. Everyday paparazzi are created as soon as someone takes a “Mupload”  or someone films something from their Iphone. Girls are pressured by the scrutinizing lens of society to put on a presentation and are then subject to an array of judgment based on their looks.

Taking matters into their own hands, girls have learned to manipulate their photos and profiles to put forth a particular image of themselves that they seem fit for their audience. Rebecca Willet explores how teenagers are engaging with social media and how they are manipulating the technology to be active agents. In her work, “‘As soon as you get on Bebo you just go mad’: young consumers and the discursive construction of teenagers online”, she states,  “Although they described their selection of profile photos as ‘‘random’’ or selected by a friend, they said they would not put up bad photos of themselves.” Teens are now smarter and wiser when it comes to social media and rarely post or construct their profile by happenstance. They are crafting their profiles for their audience and to gain popularity from that lured audience. For teenage girls, their profiles are geared towards boys and the “popular girls” in an effort to remain in the upper-echelon of middle-school politics.

Hoder went on to explain, “One way to be popular is to be sexy. The group I spoke with could all point to teenagers whose Facebook pictures are, in their words, “hot” — and also those that have crossed the line into “slutty.” Several admitted to considering posing in a bikini for their profile picture, though they were concerned about getting “a reputation,” and none have actually done so, at least not yet. “If you want a boy to look at you, you do a bikini shot or push your boobs out,” said one of the girls.” The concern that Holder sees in these young girls admissions is that the sexualization of girls is a dangerous act that forces them to feel hurried. This causes anxiety for parents. As their daughters become sexualized and begin to explore outside of seemingly wholesome family values and morals, parents become worried as they lose their power of authority. Amy Hasinhoff advises parents to view teen girls’ exploration of sexual expression as a media product rather than an act of victimization, in her work “Sexting as media production: Re-thinking dominant ideas about teen girls and sexuality online”. She declares, “it is important to recognize the cultural and structural restrictions that shape girls’ sexuality, it is equally important to recognize that sexting, like more celebrated forms of media production, could be one way that girls negotiate, respond, and speak back to sexual representations of youth and femininity in mass media—by producing their own. That is, rather than dismiss teenage girls’ sexual media production practices as a symptom of their victimization by a sexist culture, I argue that it is vital to examine sexting and online sexuality as a form of media production and self-expression.”

Girls are using their social media profiles to create their own advertisements for themselves. As the model and director, the teens are able to determine how they present their image. Young girls are able to employ and expose their sexuality to elicit some notoriety and gain a sense of popularity among their audience. “How do I look?” is a question that has now been ingrained in young girls’ lives. Not only do media images flood these girls with ideas of beauty and appearance, but now social networking sites are encouraging teen girls to obsess over their appearance and strive for accepted beauty.

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