Opinion | Social media feeds ‘perfect summer’ stress

By Maggie Knutte, Columnist

Many people look forward to summer. For some it is a break from school, and for others a time to enjoy the nice weather, whether they’re vacationing or soaking up some rays in their own backyard.

On social media, there is a constant stream of beach photos, with everyone smiling and having what appears to be the greatest time. Yet this is only how we perceive it, as the snapshot taken only shows a second of time. 

The shared idea that summer has to be fun and adventurous puts stress on society. Summertime can increase anxiety levels in teens and even adults, as they feel they need to have the ‘picture perfect summer’ that clogs up their Instagram feeds. But this perfect summer doesn’t really exist — it’s created by large corporations and reinforced by the media. 

Social pressure explains why we feel this tension. In psychology, social pressure is “the exertion of influence on a person or group by another person or group.” The pressure not only comes from your peers, but companies as well. 

When marketing their brand, companies often push ideas onto their consumers. For example, when you see an advertisement in the summer — often for beverages or food — the promotion will almost always include some image of a beach. The goal of the company is to sell a summer fantasy to their customers, as if drinking a soda will make them feel like they’re on a beach. And it goes further than just selling items.

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A blog post on the FSG (Foundation Strategy Group) website talks about the dangerous power that companies hold to influence social norms. Advertisements go deeper than marketing when companies use them to play on human insecurities.

A particularly damaging instance of this is swimsuit promotions. Many are aware of the term “beach body,” which asserts the idea that people’s bodies must look a certain way in order to wear a swimsuit. In a survey done by ValuePenguin, 42% of Americans said they feel pressure to have a “beach body” for summer. This term — first coined as “bikini body” — originated from a company advertisement. By spreading this, companies poison the minds of the public and create a toxic social construction. 

Despite the harm it causes — especially on young females — some companies continue to use the “beach body” promotion to sell their products. Pictures of swimsuit models usually lack diverse size representation. The expectation that models must look thin, tall and fit feeds into the insecurities of society, making everyone think they need to look like that, too.

Summer anxiety can be rough to manage. The stress of planning activities, the anxiety about planning things before summer ends, and poor sleep can take a large toll on your health. This Bucks County Anxiety Center article offers a few steps to control your summer anxiety. 

Despite all these negatives, there are ways you can ease the pressure for a perfect summer. Start doing things because you want to, not because other people are doing them. Tell yourself it’s okay to stay at home and relax instead of flying somewhere tropical. Eat ice cream if you want to, even though those swimsuit advertisements are telling you otherwise. 

Your summer should be what you want it to. Use it as a time to destress. Don’t feel guilty because you didn’t go on that trip to the beach. And don’t bend over backwards to fit it into your schedule. Make it your own ‘perfect summer’ by doing what makes you feel happy. 

Maggie is a sophomore in LAS.

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