Online fame 'may give false sense of self-worth'

There is a risk that student influencers may feel a false sense of self-worth or belonging from the popularity they experience on social media.
 

Experts noted that there was a higher chance of teens experiencing this risk, compared to adults, as some teens may be at a stage in their lives where they are not fully comfortable with just being themselves.

Ms Lena Teo, deputy director for therapy and mental wellness services at the Children-at-Risk Empowerment Association, said: "Getting the number of likes or followers may mean popularity, endorsement and acceptance for them. Moreover, some find it a safe place to hide behind the persona of this virtual identity."

Mr Praveen Nair, a psychologist and senior consultant at Raven Counselling and Consultancy, said his agency has seen a number of teens - mainly girls aged between 13 and 17 - who have experienced heightened anxiety and other negative emotional and cognitive issues as a result of overexposure to social media.

Many constantly check for feedback from followers and are emotionally affected when the reaction they receive is not what they had hoped for.

"Social media can also pull young women to draw comparisons between themselves and largely unrealistic, filtered versions of reality, all of which can negatively impact their self-esteem," he added. 

Mr Praveen urged parents to explain the pitfalls of a heavy online presence, using real-life examples.

ALL ABOUT THE LIKES

Getting the number of likes or followers may mean popularity, endorsement and acceptance for them. Moreover, some find it a safe place to hide behind the persona of this virtual identity.

MS LENA TEO, deputy director for therapy and mental wellness services at the Children-at-Risk Empowerment Association.

They should also expose their kids to experiential activities, such as sports, to "increase the likelihood of mental stimulation via outlets other than social media", he said. "This could reduce the likelihood of inferring 'identity' from a singular source like social media."

Ms Ilinadiah Mohd Ismail, assistant director at the Singapore Children's Society Youth Service Centre (Toa Payoh), advised parents to acknowledge that social media is here to stay and not to "fight the deluge".

"Rather, get familiar with it, try to speak the same language as the youth, understand their motivations and what draws them to social media," she said.

Calvin Yang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'Online fame 'may give false sense of self-worth''. Print Edition | Subscribe