Hi everyone! Welcome to the Life section’s newest column: Conversations with Karla. In this column, we will meet different University of Connecticut students each week and discuss various topics relating to social media. In today’s issue, you will hear from Emma Sherman, a third-semester finance major and communication minor, to talk about pandemic-era social media and how it impacted society.
Like most people during the pandemic, Sherman found herself especially sucked into social media, specifically TikTok. “[I was] on TikTok for almost all hours of the day,” she said, “and that was really detrimental to my mental health.”
Sherman commented on the rise of YouTuber Chloe Ting and how the popularity of her videos caused people to lock themselves in their rooms doing her workouts. People were already experiencing isolation during this time, and content such as Ting’s only intensified it. Sherman also remarked on how influencers’ behavior, such as Ting’s, promoted teenagers to develop unhealthy habits regarding exercise and eating.
Sherman said, “On social media, you’re always comparing yourself to other people, and there are high standards that are so difficult to live up to… It often portrays something that almost no one can obtain or even sustain.” She elaborated by saying how this could be especially impactful on young girls, as their minds and confidence are not fully developed and are therefore extremely impressionable.
I shared with Sherman a trend that I have noticed in social media today: Creators calling out creators for spreading misleading information about healthy practices. While this did not take place as frequently during the pandemic, that kind of conversation has increased. What has remained the same however is the amount of health “advice” shared across social media.
Sherman brought up how fitness influencers’ comment sections are flooded with people begging for the “secret” to their glow-up. “People should take it with a grain of salt, but they take it seriously,” Sherman said, “…maybe what works for someone else isn’t going to work for you. We need to stop thinking that there is only way we can reach whatever image we’re striving for.”
This is something that I have been preaching for months now. Believing that there is one specific way to get healthy is one of the most detrimental mindsets to have. Everyone’s bodies are different, so in order for each person to achieve their goals of physical or mental health, they must take different approaches.
The conversation shifted with me asking Sherman if she noticed this kind of culture on TikTok as it was happening during the pandemic, or if it is something she came to realize as she matured. She responded, “I kind of saw it from the start, but I really noticed the impact whenever the Snapchat memories from either my phone or other peoples’ from that time would come up.” She elaborated by saying how no one really seemed to notice the impact this time period had on them until years later.
We closed our discussion with talking about today’s social media landscape and how it affects teenagers now. “I think they’re kind of going through the same thing because I still see content like that coming up on my own feed,” Sherman stated. She further explains how younger kids may not be able to understand that waking up every morning and eating overnight oats or going to the gym everyday is not a realistic lifestyle for every single person and that it doesn’t have to be.
That’s all for this week’s Conversations with Karla! Remember that you’re loved. See you all next week when we’ll be discussing the spread of real and fake news on social media.