Social Media.

Disrupting The Feed Social Media Health

We know that social media is such an important part of your lives and that there is a growing panic around young people and the online world. Every week there are stories linking social media to depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and bullying – and who are said to be the worst affected? Young women.

The Female Lead set about finding a way to improve social media health for young people. Social media has a huge presence in everyone’s lives, rather than just limiting usage, how can we make the experience a positive and enriching one?

To tackle this problem, The Female Lead led an 18-month research project in partnership with Dr Terri Apter, a psychologist from Cambridge University, The research, which we’ve called ‘Disrupting The Feed’ explore whether teenage girls can be encouraged to use social media to expand, guide or reinforce their interests and aspirations by following more high-achieving women on social media.

Download full paper Download executive summary

What did we do:

First, The Female Lead worked with data science company, Starcount to analyse hundreds of thousands of social media accounts. We found that there was a strong link between girls who follow positive female role models and a more positive and aspirational self-image

We then started a year-long qualitative study with young women from five schools across the UK and explored whether simply altering who teen girls follow can positively impact their mental health and aspirations.

What did we find?

Almost all girls reported that their outlook had changed. They were now following people they admired. They felt positive about their social media feeds. One girl said ‘My social media use was actually quite toxic so I think it’s shown me that my usage was harmful to myself..”

Apart from just feeling better, there were practical benefits too. They found out about careers and opportunities that they hadn’t known about. They took planned ‘breaks’ from social media or re-thought who they followed to remove anyone who they recognised as having a negative impact on their self-esteem.


What can you do?

Look at our list of Positive Role Models above and follow more diverse, inspirational, hard-working women. You can also share our Social Media Pledge!

Read more

Transform Your Feed with New and Inspiring People

Take a look at our blog post that includes a list of recommended and inspiring women to follow.

Read more

Research in the world

“The number of girls interested in STEM across Europe, on average, almost doubles when they have a role model to inspire them.”