A social media guide for young people who look different

A guide to making social media work for you, including how to control your accounts and deal with trolls.

You probably know that social media can sometimes make us compare ourselves to other people. This can be particularly hard if you look different.

Social media can connect us to our friends and help us meet new, like-minded people. But it can also be a place where bullying takes place, where people say nasty things they wouldn’t say in real life and where trolls go out of their way to upset others.

On this page, we look at some things you can do to make social media work for you.

Comparing yourself to other people on social media

It can be tempting to compare yourself to the pictures you see on social media. Everyone does this, whether or not they look different. But if you have a visible difference, it can be easy to see an even bigger difference between yourself and the “beautiful”, “perfect” bodies on social media. This can make us feel like we’re not good enough as we are.

Actually, those “beautiful”, “perfect” bodies you see online are not real. People use social media to project a certain image of themselves, using camera angles, good lighting and even filters to make themselves look different to how they are in real life.

Bullying and nasty behaviour on social media

There are some very inspiring people on social media who post about how to be confident or how to cope with difficulties. Some of these people have a visible difference.

There are also some people who don’t behave in a very nice way or who make other people feel bad. You may notice that some people make comments about your appearance on social media. That’s not right and you don’t have to put up with it.

Think about who you follow:

  • Who makes you feel good? Who makes you laugh? Whose posts do you enjoy?
  • Who makes you feel bad, low or worthless?
  • Does anyone interact with you in a horrible and upsetting way?

Follow the people you like, who make you feel good. Stop following the people who make you feel bad about yourself.

How to control your accounts

There are things you can do on different platforms to get rid of people you don’t want to follow (digitally get rid of them, we mean!)

  • On Instagram, you can set up your account so you are asked to approve anyone who wants to follow you. This means you can check them out first.
  • It’s the same on Twitter. You can have a private account so people can only see your posts if you add them.
  • On Facebook, think about who you have on your “friends” list – you can “unfriend” people easily without them knowing you have done this. You can do it from any of their posts using the menu (three dots).

Check out our complete guide to social media for full details of how to control social media accounts.

What to do about trolls

Unfortunately, some people are on social media just to make others’ lives a misery. Some people set up accounts just for this reason! They are known as “trolls”. They may pick on vulnerable people, including people who look different. Trolling is wrong and it is not your fault if someone is horrible to you on social media.

You can report any abuse on social media (there is normally a “report” button). It can be good to do this, as then the company responsible for the channel can take notice.

To stop comments, the best thing to do is to simply delete or block the troll. Try to avoid responding to them as this can lead to more horrible comments and can be more upsetting. Trolls like it when people respond because it gives them the opportunity to say more horrible, hurtful things.

Tell someone you trust and talk it through with them.

Spending less time on social media

If you often feel bad after using social media, it might be time to have a break or reduce the time you spend online:

  • Think about how much time you spend on social media now. Is it a lot of time? Do you feel like you have to check it all the time and see how many likes or comments you have? Think about how this makes you feel.
  • Would it help you if you looked at it less? For example, you could decide that you will only look once a day on your laptop (and not your phone).
  • Think about the interesting things you could be doing instead – things that make you feel good. When you feel tempted to check social media outside your rules, how about doing something you know you enjoy instead?
  • Lots of people take a social media “break” – a bit like taking a holiday from it. Delete your social media apps and don’t check any platforms for a week! See how you feel after a break.

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