“Citing a “perception that one has to be perfect in every academic, co-curricular and social endeavor,’ the task force report described how students feel enormous pressure that “can manifest as demoralization, alienation or conditions like anxiety or depression.’
Gregory T. Eells, director of counseling and psychological services at Cornell University, believes social media is a huge contributor to the misperception among students that peers aren’t also struggling. When students remark during a counseling session that everyone else on campus looks happy, he tells them: “I walk around and think, ‘That one’s gone to the hospital. That person has an eating disorder. That student just went on antidepressants.’ As a therapist, I know that nobody is as happy or as grown-up as they seem on the outside.’
Instead of thinking “I failed at something, these students think, ‘I am a failure.’’
These cultural dynamics of perfectionism and overindulgence have now combined to create adolescents who are ultra-focused on success but don’t know how to fail.
Eventually she came to view her students’ lack of self-awareness, inability to make choices and difficulty coping with setbacks as a form of “existential impotence,’ a direct result of a well-meaning but misguided approach to parenting that focuses too heavily on external measures of character.
As a mom, I see how the internet has affected my oldest daughter’s perception of herself. My husband and I made the choice to take away her cellphone because of the time she was spending on instagram comparing her life to the lives of kids that she knew. Explaining to her that they are editing their life to make it look beautiful wasn’t enough… She had to actually see the difference between reality and edited beauty for herself, and she still struggles with this. I HATE how easy it is to make your life look perfect on line.. Perfect food, perfect attitude, perfect beauty, perfect makeup…. I understand deeply how this obsession with perfection is damaging to my daughter. I struggled with depression in high school, and I only had what I saw in classes and after school activities to compare my life to… I didn’t have images from the internet in addition to what I saw in class and after school. I am thankful I didn’t have to deal with the internet during high school. I wish my daughter didn’t. As much good as the internet does, it also has made kids today incredibly anxious and perfection-driven.
I get the hovering of parents. I hold the fear of high school and mall shooting in my heart. I try not to let it change the way I interact with my kids. I want them to succeed on their own, without my interference or ‘hovering’. I want them to be able to fail without fear, and succeed without pressure. SO HARD as a parent to juggle those two desires.