The reason why teens are editing themselves on social media

Their generation may have been raised in the crucible of social media, but the constant editing of their past illustrates their acceptance of the future.

 

 

Teens who grow up with social media have turned to regular culls of their Instagram posts – and it isn’t because they aren’t getting enough likes.

These youth, many of whom have been present on social media since they can remember, have adopted the habit of ‘self-auditing’ their content in order to stop potential teenage lapses coming back to haunt them as looming adulthood forces them to become more mindful of how they present themselves.

Bree Ford, a 16-year old in Pennsylvania who has embraced the trend, spoke to the Wall Street Journal regarding the phenomenon. “My generation is getting so much better at managing who we are online. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated with something and I’ll post about it and then I don’t want it up there anymore, so I delete it. No one needs to see that if I’m going to get over it in an hour.”

This generation has been blessed with the benefit of witnessing the social media mistakes of their elders, who are better known for posts that eventually hurt them. Jayne Charneski, founder of consumer-research firm Front Row Insights & Strategy, says that teenagers today are acutely aware that social media accounts (Instagram in particular) almost serve as résumés for teens, and many are actively curating them and keeping them up to date. “They’re essentially thinking of themselves as brands and they’re aware of the need to segment their audience and of how to market to those segments, whether it’s a college or a job or a potential boyfriend,” she said.

 

A prevalent technique employed is keeping two Instagram accounts – one clean and public ‘main’ account, typically accessible by anyone or most friends, relatives and acquaintances; and one usually difficult to find a private account that only close friends have access to.

 

A prevalent technique employed is keeping two Instagram accounts – one clean and public ‘main’ account, typically accessible by anyone or most friends, relatives and acquaintances; and one usually difficult to find a private account that only close friends have access to. The latter allows image-conscious teens to share whatever they want with those they want (and trust, hopefully). 

In 2018, Instagram added a ‘close friends’ list to its stories feature, which is essentially a select group of people that users can share more personal moments with. While this feature does get a fair run, stories aren’t the only (or even the main) content shared on Instagram, and so those looking to selectively show their posts still prefer the two-account method.

Another contributing factor to the self-auditing is the fickle nature of adolescence.

“A lot of times I’d go on rants or talk about a bad day I was having but then the feeling passed and I realised it’s not the image I want up there,” said Darya Iranmanesh, a 16-year-old in Massachusetts. “Teens can’t make up their minds, so they’ll post something and the next day go, ‘I can’t believe I posted that.’ Things become irrelevant and you don’t want things on there that aren’t relevant anymore.”

“What posted at 14 they may have completely outgrown by 15,” says Charneski.

Today’s youth have been forced to grapple with the fact that so much of their growing up—warts and all—will be there for all to see until deleted. All this culling and curating of one’s almost digital scrapbook is one of the reasons teens become overwhelmed with social media, says Charneski.

15-year-old Sophie from Chicago told WSJ that she spends a great deal of time editing her profile. “I’ll look at photos I took two or three years ago and it’s not the way I want to present myself anymore,” she said. “Back then I would post pictures of trees or a selfie of me and my friends at a dance competition. I didn’t take the time to edit it or put a filter on it. I want to present my best self to the world now. I’m not a little kid anymore.”

 

 

 

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