“[Friend] likes the Most Beautiful Teenager Contest’s photo.”
Wait, what? I stared at my computer screen, puzzled. I curiously clicked on the Facebook page. Within seconds, a page dedicated to discovering the “most beautiful teen” on Facebook unfolded before my eyes. I scrolled through the page, noting the pictures, the ‘likes,’ and most of all, the comments. I was shocked. While some teenagers obviously entered this contest with the intention of winning, others entered the contest to be accepted or validated as “beautiful” to hundreds of thousands of people they don’t know. And guess what? Instead of these self-conscious teens being told they are “hot” or “gorgeous,” they are reminded of their insecurities, called hurtful names, and are quickly embarrassed– all through the click of a button. Unfortunately, it’s that easy. One person posts a negative comment, and it snowballs. These comments results in the teen feeling further self-doubt. Imagine a person looking in the mirror after being told that they are ugly, or gross. Suddenly, self-confidence plummets, and any imagined flaws become obvious.
Other self-esteem and self-image damaging competitions are all over the internet, including the dangerous “Am I Ugly?” trend on YouTube. In these videos, people (usually, preteen girls) ask for the public’s opinion on how they look. They ask, “Honestly, am I pretty or ugly?” These videos leave a child vulnerable to bullying, and these videos allow millions of strangers to give opinions and brutal feedback to a child. It’s frightening.
This is why we need to reassure youth that beauty is not measured in the number of ‘likes’ a photo gets. We need to remind them that true beauty is not measured with a ruler. Yet, we’re so quick to compliment a child on a cute dress or adorable hair. As a result, some children grow up thinking about appearance first and inner beauty secondary. We must remind ourselves and remind young people that it is inner beauty that ultimately shines through. Inner beauty is all about values and character. We must help youth discover what makes them feel beautiful in a healthy way, such as playing a sport or painting a picture. Teach them something new, like how to cook a meal. Take the time to listen to them. Make them smile. Build their confidence. When a young person is empowered, opportunities become endless.