We are a mediated culture where mass media and technology have a direct effect on our actions, thoughts, and values. Technology plays a large role in creating social norms because forms of media such as advertisements, television, and film are present almost everywhere in our culture.
Common Sense Media reported that a lifetime of viewing stereotypical media can become so ingrained it can in time affect kids’ career, self-esteem, and relationships. In a separate study by Common Sense Media, 75 percent of parents reported they felt TV shows and movies influenced how young girls should look, and 56 percent reported they influenced them on how to act in romantic relationships.
Social media has become a toxic mirror for adolescents with links to its use causing body image concerns, dieting issues, and self-objectification.
Haleigh Still, a former strip club worker, said “Social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are all visual platforms that give teenagers the perfect tools to be critiqued and compared to others.” Still said. “I post my body frequently, so I receive awful messages every day calling me a slut, a whore, or saying I’m worthless. I was told that I’m going to die being known as a whore and that I’m asking to be raped because of what I post.”
Along with social media, came a new form of harassment called cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is any form of harassment that happens through the internet or electronically.
“I’ve been bullied most of my life, but it got worse when I started using Instagram more often” Still said. “I posted my body a lot, I get negative awful messages every day.”
The internet gives the gift of anonymity to anyone who asks for it and it can be both a gift and a curse. Social media comes with the likeness of a bathroom wall, allowing people to carelessly sling insults at another. A Norton study showed that 72 percent of women under the age of 30 have experienced some form of online harassment.
Amey Wise, a mother and business owner, said women can be very ugly to each other on social media.
“It’s a lot easier since you’re talking behind a keyboard and not face-to-face,” she said.
However, technology and social media give women globally easier access to connect, share information, and to give voices to those who are voiceless. This covers issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, sexual harassment and sexual violence.
Hashtag activism is a term created by the media that refers to the use of hashtags for internet activism. It has become an increasingly popular form of protesting on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
“Social media can be positive though, like the #MeToo movement, which I’m sure changed how a lot of people view women,” said Amey Wise.
Still believes hashtags should just be the first step to creating a better awareness of issues. “I don’t think hashtags do much aside from spreading the word. It would help a lot more if you took action,” said Still.
Social media can help remove the barriers of distance and location. Access to platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram have made activism easier than ever, starting important conversations and creating a platform for awareness and change.