Yesterday I spent the entire day on social media. It wasn’t intentional – at least, it was, kind of, but I wasn’t supposed to be on it all the time – it just kind of took over my day. I had been commissioned by the Dove Self-Esteem Project to experience social media as a teenaged girl. They had some research about how the average girl spends her time online, and they wanted me to experience it for myself, and report back on how it felt. I went to bed early, with a headache, craving wine that we didn’t have in the house.
Here’s what happened:
A day in the life of a teenaged girl
I’d planned my day online to start as soon as I awoke. Normally – and to force myself out of sleep – I pick up my phone and check my messages when the alarm goes off. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if I’ve posted something in the last day. It engages my brain cells enough to stop me ignoring the snooze function on my alarm clock. Takes about 10 minutes, then I’m up, following the daily school-run pattern.
So the day began as usual. Except for the fact that I paused my usual rant about wasted time and forgotten violins to post this on Instagram:
We had to run for school, but I was determined to post something that might engage, and I knew that pictures of shoes (don’t ask me why – I’ve never been able to fathom it) – especially branded shoes – are popular. I was going to get likes! Twenty minutes later, as I walked home from school, I checked my feed. Nothing. What? No likes on a pair of Converse?!
I consoled myself; most of the people I follow are mums; they’re all on the school run, no time to browse Instagram. It will be fine. You see, I’d been tasked with getting 24 likes per post, the number of likes that the average teenaged girl says she will content herself with – although she’d like five times that amount. I was going to have to try harder.
I started to go through my Instagram feed; I clicked the little heart on every post I saw, knowing that many users will click back through and return the favour. What’s the point, really, if my post doesn’t actually resonate with them? But I didn’t stop to rationalise, I needed likes, so I liked everything I saw, even the things I didn’t like. An hour later I only had nine likes.
I resorted to desperate measures: I went back in and edited my post, adding the hashtags #like4likes and #tags4likes. It felt dirty. I even followed the hashtags and liked a number of posts by people I would never in a million years normally engage with, just to see if they would return the favour. (They didn’t, as it happened, and I’ll admit, I started to wonder what was wrong with me and my feet). I decided the time had come to abandon the post and start again. I needed fresh material, and I had to try harder.
It was lunch time, and I’d made some roasted butternut squash soup the night before. Normally, I’d blast it in the microwave and slurp it at my desk, but today I knew I needed to make it pretty. I put it in my best bowl, in the best light my kitchen can manage, swept all the dishwasher debris aside, and added a swirl of sour cream and a scattering of chopped coriander. Jamie Oliver, anyone?
This was better. The timing was right, and I started to get feedback straight away. I got clever about hashtags and people posting photos of their lunch found me. I cross-posted to Twitter, hoping people would click through and engage, and they did. Things were looking up. I began to hope that by the time the kids came home I would have fifty likes – enough for a hug. Apparently, a teenage girl would rather have a like on social media, than a hug, and Dove had asked me to refrain until I had fifty.
In the meantime, I was still working, just like the average teenaged girl getting through her day of school, college or work. But I’d been asked to keep one platform open at all times. 50% of girls say they use social media ‘all the time.’ I chose Facebook. I work on my computer for 3-8 hours every day; I love Facebook, but it’s a huge distraction. Every so often I have to switch it off, simply to stop me checking in. Not so today, and every time I saw that little number in the tab at the top of my screen, I went to see who was talking to me. It was gratifying; people were engaging with me, and it felt nice. But I was frustratingly close to missing a deadline. It took all my powers of concentration to ignore the tally, and get my work finished on time.
Back to my soup post, and I still only had 19 likes. It was time to get serious, so I posted chocolate, and tagged it liberally:
I styled it nicely (I thought), I tagged it #chocolate, shared it on Twitter, and Facebook. I got a few likes, but they were slow coming in. I kept hitting refresh, the need for validation beginning to get the better of my common sense and laid-back approach to social media. What was wrong with my post? Why wasn’t I flooded with likes and comments?
It was time to get serious. Bring in THE SELFIE. Dove state that the average girl posts seven photos of herself each week. She spends around twelve minutes getting ready for the picture – hair, make-up, lighting, props, etc. – and takes nine versions of the same image before choosing the one she’s happy to post. Oh God, maybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong – I’m not taking it seriously enough! I got to work. I took it seriously, deciding that my pink living room would work well with what I was wearing that day. I even switched on the ‘evening’ lights.
- God no, the angle’s all wrong – makes me look like that woman off The Chase
- Too serious (how exactly do you smile when you’re the one holding the camera? Plus I have fairy lights coming out of my head
- Maybe my favourite mug and a big sparkly ring will make for the perfect selfie…
- The girls had left a cuddly cat on the sofa, so I thought maybe an action shot. Big mistake. Chin.
- Maybe it was the glasses, and perhaps a fluffy accessory would help?
- Oh lord I’m rubbish at selfies, let’s get daft and see if that works
- Back to the glasses, and I’ve learned how to selfie-smile. A nice photo, but more Linked-In than Instagram – if you remove the cat.
In the end I found one I liked. But not before I’d posted this, in mock outrage:
It got the most interaction of the day. People saying they easily took nine shots before finding one they wanted to post. Mothers worrying about their girls; others claiming they worried more about their online popularity than their daughters did.
In the end I decided it wasn’t worth it, and at 8.30pm, with 39 likes (and some begging on Twitter), I hugged my children goodnight and collapsed into a good book. As a teenaged girl, I wondered how I would have felt about a less than adequate day on social media; and about the prospect of starting all over again tomorrow.
Dove started the Dove Self Esteem Project (DSEP) in 2004 as a way to help young girls with self-esteem and to realise their full potential. DSEP is the sponsor of Women in the World, a global summit taking place today and tomorrow in London. The summit brings together extraordinary leaders and change-makers to help increase body confidence and self-esteem in young people. #NoLikesNeeded is launched today to show girls that whilst it’s easy to get sucked into the perceived need to be liked online, the only like that really counts is their own.
Dove asked me to use four social media platforms during my day online (the number the average girl uses every day), and to keep one open all the time. I used Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Early in the day I also used RealTimes to post a short video of a recent holiday to YouTube. At the time of publishing this post it had received 45 views, but no likes. It’s fine, it’s a happy little film that makes me smile, and that’s all that matters. #NoLikesNeeded…
Disclosure – I have been compensated for my time in promoting this campaign. All thoughts, words, and images are my own.