The Harmful Effects of Social Media on Teen Girls

For many years, teenagers relatively followed the same path when it came to socializing. Football games and after-school dances were a time for adolescents to get together and build new friendships outside a restricted schedule. The weekends were filled with days on the beach and hanging out at the local mall. When it came to communicating, a telephone booth or home phone was the only option. Writing longhand letters to friends was a form of extra entertainment. Then, on January 1st, 1983, the form of communication went viral. The World Wide Web was here to stay.


Real-Life Consequences

In 2010, users were introduced to Instagram. A social platform that focused on body image and lifestyle. While the parent company Facebook, remained focused on the family as a whole. In fact, a recent report reviewed by the Wall Street Journal stated, “More than 40% of Instagram’s users are 22 years old and younger, and about 22 million teens log onto Instagram in the U.S. each day, compared with five million teens logging onto Facebook, where young users have been shrinking for a decade.”

While Instagram was originally launched with the idea that consumers could use the platform for connecting and sharing photos with friends, it began to take on the negative aspects of the web. Adolescents were starting to report anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts regarding their experience on the social app, especially for girls.

After a thorough in-house study, Facebook concluded that these emotions were tied to Instagram specifically, and not social media more broadly. More specifically, “Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.”

Facebook outlined that Tik-Tok, a short-video social platform, spotlights performance and action, while their rival Snapchat, offered a wide array of light-hearted “alternate facial looks.” Instagram was the one platform that capitalized on media beauty and less on the consumers’ assets and attributes.

Concluding that, “The tendency to share only the best moments, a pressure to look perfect and an addictive product can send teens spiraling toward eating disorders, an unhealthy sense of their own bodies and depression,”


Inability to Break the Viral Bond

The Wall Street Journal goes on to report that collectively, teenage girls experience overall more emotions when it comes to their bodies and style. Along with puberty, adolescent females actively seek the approval of those around them while mirroring their image. This is the time in their life that beauty and the need to fit in takes on a new meaning.

With social platforms at the ready, teenagers have the ability to consistently check on their status. Are they still popular, do they still have virtual friends, are they missing out? In one such study, “Facebook found that more than 40% of Instagram users who reported feeling “unattractive” said the feeling began on the app. Many also said the app undermined their confidence in the strength of their friendships.”

Yet, Instagram’s researchers conveyed that those that were coping with the negative psychological effects of the platform were not always logging off. Adolescent girls reported they knew the app was causing anxiety, but they did not have the inner strength to turn it off for long periods or delete the app altogether, referring to the app as an “addiction” or “habit”.


Re-thinking Instagram’s Assets

When the news media began reporting higher numbers of teens that were mentally affected by social media, the general public called upon tech CEOs to come up with a plan to counter these statistics. Enter Project Daisy. The goal was to see if they took away the “likes” option, users would not experience as much negative feedback resulting in a better experience.

In its conclusion, Facebook announced that users did not feel much change. Some even reported added anxiety due to not knowing what the viewers’ opinion was without the like option. Instagram added that they acknowledge that there is no clear-cut answer.


What’s In the Works for Better Viral Mental Health

It has become quite clear that social platforms are as popular as ever, with recent numbers showing as high as one billion views per month. While these numbers have doubled since the pandemic, the effects remain the same on mental health. To advocate for a more positive use of Instagram, the company has partnered with a variety of nonprofits to encourage “emotional resilience”. These platforms would create specific videos that would target adolescents about using daily affirmations to encourage better mental health. Overall reminding users, “I am in control of my experience on Instagram,” the report stated.

Another option being tested is eliminating the beauty filters and including more “fun looks” as an alternative. The company acknowledged that the embellished filters were a common complaint made by consumers as unrealistic and misleading.


How Trails Carolina Can Help Reset Your Adolescent’s Mental Outlook

Trails Carolina is not your typical therapy program. Our walls are the trees, and our roofs are the stars. Tucked away in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, the Nantahala National Forest hosts our base camp, Winding Gap. Without the daily use of electronics, adolescents learn to re-engage in nature as a source of entertainment and lifelong knowledge.

By removing triggers in their daily life, our staff has the opportunity to teach each adolescent about their intrinsic needs and mental health. Days are filled with reflection and exercise and evenings are spent doing calming group activities. Adolescents improve their mental health, build better relationships, and learn how to meet their goals. 


Trails Carolina is Here for Your Family

Trails Carolina is a wilderness therapy program that helps teens ages 10-17 who are struggling with behavioral and emotional issues. The program uses adventure-based therapy to help students gain a new sense of self-awareness, confidence, and independence. The skills they learn throughout the program offer long-term benefits towards their ability to successfully self-navigate in the real world. By removing teens from their fast-paced environment into a nurturing and peaceful environment, they are able to focus on improving and reflecting upon their behavior. Trails Carolina gives students the tools they need to lead happy and healthy lives.


Contact us at 800-975-7303. We can help your family today!


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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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