Corrigan’s Editorial Note: Ganna Mahmoud wrote this analysis of a short film in my Writing & Inquiry course (AWR 101) at the University of Tampa in Spring 2023. I am delighted to share it here on account of how well she conducts academic analysis in such an engaging and human “voice.”
We often hear about how social media promotes laziness in young people. But now here comes Meredith, in A Social Life short film, who claimed that she does not need to be “fixed up.”
Meredith is a young woman living alone and trying to have a healthy life. She constantly takes plenty of pictures of everything she does and then posts them on her social media platforms. Her mom then called her; she sounded concerned about her daughter and Meredith replied, “I don’t need to be fixed up.”
What does she mean by, “fixed up?” Does she have any sort of mental health struggles? Why would she post about her “healthy lifestyle,” though?
Let’s borrow some thoughts from Conor Friedersorf about social media’s impact on young girls. In his study, “Adults Are Letting Teen Girls Down,” which was published on February 26, 2023, nearly 60 percent of suicides were by teenage girls from a decade ago. It all started with social media. He explains in his study how young women and girls are dealing with social media depression nowadays through various stories from parents and teachers.
The “perfect” body images of models on Instagram have led young girls to suffer from an eating disorder. K points out in the article how one of her students went from never nearly overweight to thin to risky underweight due to the pressure she had when staring at those models all day.
S also mentioned how social media is the top reason why she and other women suffered from body dysmorphia during her teenage years.
Apart from the body image, this world was not built for girls, so girls try to figure out how to be fit into this world.
Be skinny so you will be accepted and attractive.
Be intelligent enough so the world can take you seriously.
Get perfect grades or else the world would believe that girls are not great at certain things such as math.
Don’t be too opinionated or else you are bossy and annoying.
You’re trash if you don’t want to major in STEM and you want to major in Art instead.
Let’s not forget also the standards that social media created about womanhood: being strong, brave, fierce, confident, powerful, and so on. Scott mentioned how that pressured girls to not feel “good enough,” do whatever they like or just be themselves in general. As a result, girls felt nothing but hopelessness and failure.
We can tell that Meredith’s mental struggles are due to social media since the beginning of the short film. The film begins with her checking social media first thing in the morning which is a major sign of social media addiction.
She scrolls all day from cooking to drinking her morning coffee to work, and she even kept changing her sitting position on the couch multiple times while staring at the screen. She is losing track of time. Not to mention, her eyes are deeply focused on every single post she scrolls by. She rarely blinked which is what Friedersdorf also wrote about, “The way girls interpret, use and analyze every single post is astonishing.”
Scrolling through pictures of people “living their lives,” she decided to grab some fancy bottles of wine, took pictures of them, and posted them as an indication that she is “living her life too.”
In addition, she spent an entire night wearing makeup, dressing up, and getting ready only to take a selfie, post it on IG, and captioned, “Date Night.”
Afterward, she would check her number of likes every few minutes and then she fell asleep with her dress and makeup on.
She wakes up the next day and immediately checks her number of likes. She did not brush her teeth, wash her face, or even got breakfast.
When she noticed that she did not get the number of likes she wanted, she rushed to the mirror to take another picture.
She stopped and stared at herself in the mirror. Reflecting on her actual self. Is she actually living this life according to what she posts? Is her reflection basically a bunch of images online and some even with fake moments just like the wine and date night ones? The fact that she cares more about her life looks on social media but not in real life. That’s something Friedersdorf mentioned and warned about in his study, “Teenagers are mediated by their phones and don’t see boundaries between social media and reality.”
Finally, the film ended with her dropping the phone and running downstairs which indicates that she finally realized what she put herself through.
Friedersdorf mentioned that the worst thing social media has ever done is that it created loneliness, isolation, and conflict which is what happened to Meredith.
The film is called A Social Life, but it is obviously more of a social life on Instagram than reality which also explains Meredith’s loneliness and isolation. She is all by herself. She never interacts with anybody not even on social media. She would just wait for people to interact with her posts for the sake of getting ‘enough’ comments and likes. Her mom is concerned about her not visiting her as much as she used to which is a sign that she is isolating herself from everybody including her own family. And finally the conflict between her social media life and her reality.
Last but not least, Friedersdorf mentioned in his article how a lot of young people refuse to talk about heavy topics such as their mental health and how they refuse to seek help as they believe it will not work out. This sounds exactly like Meredith when she told her mom she does not need to be fixed up.
So if women and girls decided to seek some professional help, will this social media depression be over?
Friedersdorf recalls back the continuing history of society and the medical industry of neglecting women’s feelings by saying things such as You’re being dramatic, you just don’t get enough sleep, it is probably the time of the month or You spend too much on your phone and so on.
Either way, girls cannot win.
If we decide to pay attention to young women’s mental and emotional well-being, there’s a chance of a better society. According to Friedersdorf’s conclusion, is that if we continued not taking young girls’ mental health seriously, there will be downfalls in genetics, socioeconomic status, family dynamics, and even experimentation with alcohol and drugs.
By examining how Meredith spends her day as someone who does not need to be “fixed up,” as well as the stories about teenage girl’s mental health struggles, my analysis is that Meredith was just messing with her own mental health struggle reminding the readers that there are people out there who do not feel comfortable opening up about their social media depression or just any kind of mental health issue in general in order to take action and maybe even relate to her.
Friedersdorf, Conor. “Adults Are Letting Teen Girls Down.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 22 Feb. 2023, https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2023/02/adults-are-letting-teen-girls-down/673144/.
“A Social Life | Award Winning Short Film | Social Media Depression.” YouTube, YouTube, 12 Apr. 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXdVPLj_pIk.