Is Social Media the Modern "Shirley Card" for Black Girls?
Social media doesn't fix anything; it just amplifies things. ~Scott Stratten
What are the priorities of most tween and teen girls in the morning? Brushing their teeth? Nope. Taking a shower? Nope. Eating breakfast? Nope. Reaching for their cell phone? Yes! These young ladies scroll through social media, looking at different content. It may be posts from family, friends, or influencers. Many may think that picking up the phone before wiping sleep from their eyes is just the effect of a Gen Z generation addicted to their phones. However, the answer isn't as simple as logging off a platform. Frequent social media can significantly affect their mental health, specifically for the Gen Z black girl.
Interestingly, black girls use social media second highest to black boys (Common Sense Media, 2021). Another interesting fact is that children from low-income families use social media more than those from high-income families. How is this possible when we consider the digital divide? Regardless, we need to examine the impact of social media on black girls. The self-esteem of this group of young people is significantly impacted.
While black boys and girls have high screen time, the gist of black boys' content differs. Black boys are usually scrolling for entertainment. They often engage in posts related to sports or center around being funny. However, black girls use social media to connect with others. There is an emotional attachment to the content in which they engage. Society values physical appearance. Unfortunately, these beauty standards are based on European esthetics and are imposed on black girls through social media posts. Black girls battle with hair, skin tone, and body image. They use social media to achieve specific physical features that present themselves in inauthentic ways.
Hence we have the "Shirley Card." In the 1940s, Kodak primarily developed colored photos for white families. They did not have a system to produce pictures for black families, so in the 1950s, they created the Shirley Card. Shirley was a white employee of Kodak who was the standard for a perfect photo. As a result, photographs did not appropriately capture black people. This type of racial bias continues to affect black girls through social media. Social media has to create a standard that applies to them to minimize mental health issues.
Counteracting the negative influences of social media on black girls can be challenging. We must encourage them to know their self-worth and stand proud in their culture. Not all social media leads to unfavorable outcomes. It can help with self-expression and social connections. However, we must teach black girls to optimize technology to their benefit. When the influences are negative, we must advise them to…." Slay What Ya Hear!"