YOUNG people are facing a “barrage of insults” and “huge anxiety” over their physical appearance on social media, and will continue to suffer unless society changes the way it expresses human value, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, has said.
Bishop Treweek was speaking about the launch of her week-long social-media campaign #say1thing, on Monday, which encourages people to post on social media one thing that they value about their friends and family which is not related to the way they look.
She told the Church Times on Tuesday: “In an ideal world, we all believe that young people spending less time on social media would be the healthiest way forward, but the reality is that the amount of time they spend online, and how they communicate with one another, is not going to change any time soon; so we have been really careful not to demonise social media. Otherwise you just disengage young people with the conversation.
“It’s been important for us, from the beginning of this campaign, that we meet young people where they are rather than try to ‘tell them’ how they should and shouldn’t be living their lives.”
Since her consecration in 2015, Bishop Treweek has been visiting schools around the country, as part of her #liedentity campaign, to ask pupils what values they admire in both themselves and others (News, 28 October 2016).
DIOCESE OF GLOUCESTERBishop Treweek meets students from Stroud High School
“We have had many conversations with young people about the ‘perfect life’ pictures of sunsets and laughter, etc., and how this is not true to real life.
“Many of them realise this, but it is the difference between what the heart feels and what the head knows, which is a much more complex situation to unravel with them, and that does need to be done in face-to-face discussion in an honest and deeper way.”
The diocese of Gloucester posted a short video for the campaign on Twitter with the tagline: “Change the message.” It features young people listing some of the ways that social media makes them feel, including “worthless”, “jealous”, “inadequate”, “terrible”, “fat”, and “pressured”.
“Young people face a barrage of insults about what they look like, and face huge anxiety about the pictures they post, hoping for likes and then often having to deal with terrible insults,” Bishop Treweek said.
“We are living in a society where our value is being determined by what we look like, rather than who we are from the inside out.”
Writing for the Church Times earlier this year (Comment, 5 May), she said that the Church had a “crucial” part to play in addressing these challenges, because of its contact with schools and youth groups. “Above all, the Church has the life-transforming truth of the gospel to share with young people.
“As a baptised Christian, I know that my deepest, truest identity is found in Jesus Christ, and this is the liberating truth that I want to share with young people — beleaguered as they are by messages of unworthiness.”
Read our feature on the insidious rise of the global beauty ideal.