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Social Media Lies: Giving Teens Perspective of Reality

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we see more and more teens who come into our school with low self-esteem due to their perceived reality. They think they need to live up to the standards of models and “influencers” on sites like TikTok and Instagram, and they don’t realize that so much of social media is fake. We are writing on the topic today to point out how social media can create a distorted sense of reality for teens and show parents how to help their teens maintain perspective.

If you’ve spent any time on social media lately, you know how enticing it can be. Endless pictures and videos show beautiful people doing everyday things. Except, it seems like they do all of those everyday things so much better than the rest of us.

Their diets work. Their makeup routines are flawless. Their clothes look great. They have adorable pets. They have happy families all the time. They’re everything we want to be!

Even as an adult, it’s easy to get sucked into the lies of social media. We can become disheartened that our lives don’t look as good as everyone else’s life. As humans, we naturally compare ourselves to those around us. It’s how we tell if we fit in properly in society. When our view of society is run through the social media filter, it’s almost impossible to tell where we stand. Then, our emotions take a turn for the worse.

Teens deal with the same social media issues, but they don’t always realize it’s fake. Most adults understand that airbrushed pictures, Photoshopped pictures, and pictures that have been altered in an app don’t show actual reality. The altered photos and videos can still affect our emotions, but we know it’s not real. Teens struggle even more than adults to overcome their emotions when they see something that might be fake.

Understanding social media lies

It’s imperative that teens learn to distinguish truth from fiction on social media. Perceived reality is not reality. As the parent of a teenager, you’ll need to step in to help them learn the difference. Here are two main social media tricks that can change a teenager’s perspective of reality.


If you’ve never applied a filter to one of your photos, give it a shot. It’s amazing how much a filtering app can change your picture! Backgrounds look gorgeous. The lighting is perfect. Colors are highlighted just right. Pimples and wrinkles disappear. You can make the picture look just how you want it.

Since it’s so easy to apply a filter, and since so many social media apps encourage filters, teens see a lot of filtered pictures. It’s pretty rare for them to see an unaltered picture on social media, even if it’s from one of their friends. So, they start thinking that things look like they do in the photos. Everyone else doesn’t have pimples anymore, and they look perfect all the time.

Scroll through social media sites with your teen and point out the filters in pictures. Make sure your teen understands that altered pictures don’t accurately represent reality. Everyone else is just as imperfect as they are, even if the pictures don’t show it.

Constant positivity

It’s really common for both teens and adults to focus on the positive online. We don’t want the world to know about all of our flaws and our bad moments, so we post the good stuff. While positivity is great, constant positivity gives the wrong impression. It makes people feel ashamed of the bad moments in their day since everyone else seems so happy all the time.

Most of your teen’s friends probably post the positive aspects of their life because it makes them look good, and they get positive reactions from it. They’re trying to interact with their friends and get positive feedback. There’s a more nefarious side to constant positivity, though. Companies target their ads on social media sites to fit in with the constant positivity culture. So now it looks like the people who have such positive lives also buy certain products.

If your teen gets down about their imperfections or their seemingly “boring” life, remind them that the people on social media don’t have perfect lives either. It just looks that way because they’re designing it to look that way. In reality, no one has a perfect life, and nobody’s happy all the time.

Dangers of distorted reality for teens

When teens think that everyone else has a better life than them, they start to feel bad about themselves. Teenagers are already worried about what others think of them. If everything they see online shows that they’re worse than their peers, they can develop low self-esteem and lose confidence in themselves.

Teens with low self-esteem can have a hard time in life. They can have trouble making friends, trying new activities, and living up to their potential. Even though they’re fully capable of living a fulfilling life, they get wrapped up in self-doubt and stop trying.

If you are worried that your teenage son has low self-esteem based on his perspective of reality, step in to address it immediately. He needs to better understand what the world is like and how he fits into it.

Teens who attend a residential therapeutic boarding school get to step away from the lies of social media and engage in hands-on activities to build self-confidence. If this sounds like a good fit for your son, call us at 866-640-1899 for more information about our school.

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