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Almost two thirds of young people feel pressure to look their best online

14th May 2019


Almost two thirds of young people (61%) feel pressure to look their best online, according to new findings from YMCA England & Wales. The alarming research also revealed that more than two thirds (67%) regularly worry about the way they look.

In response to this pressure, YMCA’s research found that more than two thirds of young people (67%) edit photos of themselves before posting them on social media and nearly a quarter (23%) spent more than five minutes doing so, with some taking over an hour. These edits would typically include removing blemishes (11%), smoothing their skin (10%), and whitening their teeth (7%).

Less than a fifth of young people (16%) said that looking at social media positively affected how confident they felt about the way they look. When asked what could be done to change this more than two fifths of young people (43%) said that people should unfollow accounts that promote negative messages about the way people look to promote body confidence on their social media channels.

Celebrities and social media influencers also have a role to play. More than half of young people (53%) said that celebrities and influencers sharing more realistic images of themselves would encourage people to post content that more accurately reflect what they look like in real life.

YMCA England & Wales spoke to more than 2,000 young people aged 11 to 24 years old as part of its new research report ‘The Curate Escape’, which is part of the charity’s Be Real Campaign.

YMCA’s Be Real Campaign, is calling on the nation to fight against unrealistic beauty standards by signing up to its Body Image Pledge. The Pledge seeks to reflect reality and diversity, promotes health and wellbeing and champions positive body image.

By signing the Pledge, individuals are making a commitment to limit or stop editing their pictures for social media, hold brands and organisations accountable if they lack diversity or promote unhealthy body image, celebrate their body’s achievements rather than their looks and spread the word about the Pledge to encourage more people to support the movement.

More than a thousand individuals have already signed the pledge including a number of celebrities and influencers such as mental health activist Natasha Devon, Scarred Not Scarred founder Michelle Elman, CSI star Charley Koontz, the world’s first professional model with down syndrome Madeline Stewart and a host of other body confidence activists.

In order to cultivate a more positive social media experience, YMCA’s Be Real Campaign has pulled together a list of #BeRealApproved influencers. By following these accounts young people can be assured that their timelines will be a source of inspiration rather than irritation.

Denise Hatton, Chief Executive for YMCA England & Wales, said:

“Social media continues to present a multitude of dangers for young people which they have been left to navigate on their own devices. These dangers are not just limited to the content they see, but also the pressure young people face to emulate them.

“Young people and the general population need to be conscious about the content they are posting online. In order to support this we’re calling on people across the nation to sign our Body Image Pledge and to be confident of how they look.

“While our research has shown that young people feel compelled to alter their digital selves, they are still in control of the content on their screens. As such, YMCA’s Be Real Campaign is encouraging young people to curate their own safe spaces online and follow accounts that make them feel good about themselves.”

Other key findings from YMCA’s ‘The Curate Escape’ research include:

  • More than one in ten young people (11%) said the pictures they post on their social media platforms do not accurately reflect what they normally look like in real life
  • More than two fifths of young people (41%) said that people should challenge influencers who promote unhealthy products and behaviours to promote body confidence on their social media channels
  • More than two fifths of young people (42%) said that a requirement for adverts to say when photos have been airbrushed would encourage more people to post content that more accurately reflect what they look like in real life

YMCA’s Be Real Campaign is a national campaign run by YMCA and was formed in 2014 in response to the Reflections on Body Image report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Body Image.

The Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools is part of the Be Real Campaign’s mission to tackle body image anxiety in young people to enable them to grow up into body confident adults. Schools can download a free copy of the toolkit at www.berealcampaign.co.uk/schools/

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