More than half of 16-25 year olds in Greater Manchester think social media creates an “overwhelming pressure” on young people

Date published: 05 February 2019

The Prince’s Trust eBay Youth Index released today, Tuesday 5 February, has found that 53 per cent of 16-25 year olds in Greater Manchester believe social media creates an ‘overwhelming pressure’ to succeed, while 38 per cent say that comparing their lives to their friends on social media makes them feel ‘inadequate’.

Published at a time when comparison with peers online seems inescapable for many young people, the report reveals how just over two fifths (42 per cent) of young people in Greater Manchester feel more anxious about their future when comparing themselves to others on social media.

Nearly a third (29 per cent) of Greater Manchester young people worry that they will never be as happy as the people they see on social media and just over one in five (18 per cent) ‘always’ or ‘often’ feel ‘panicked’ when seeing the lives of their friends online.

Anissa Ben Marrou, 22, who lives in Manchester but is originally from Canada, was struggling to find work, experiencing low confidence and facing a number of setbacks, until she joined the Prince's Trust Get into Retail programme.

"I was feeling really low and experiencing depression. On top of this, I was facing a number of setbacks in trying to find work and comparing my life to everyone else on social media really brought me down.

“Scrolling through the ‘success’ of others made me feel constantly pressured which made things worse, as I developed unrealistic goals and expectations I just couldn’t reach.”

Following the programme, Anissa was offered a job at Gap before being promoted to a Key Holder, also supporting young people taking part in The Trust’s Manchester programmes.

"The Prince’s Trust helped me out of the rut I was stuck in. My confidence grew and I realised that everyone is successful in their own way. I also started to concentrate on me and stopped comparing myself to others. I decided to take a break from social media, which also helped.

“My advice to anyone struggling like I was would be to take some time away from social media. Most people just post their best moments but those aren’t their only moments. Everyone has ups and downs.”

The Youth Index, supported by eBay, is a national survey that gauges young people’s happiness and confidence across a range of areas from their working life to physical and mental health. The latest report – based on an online survey of 2,162 young people across the UK aged 16-25 – finds the overall Index score has flat-lined at its lowest level in a decade at 69.

The report finds that 41 per cent of young people in Greater Manchester feel more confident online than they do in person.

These figures come in parallel with findings that young people’s confidence in their emotional health has dropped to its lowest level across the UK since the Index began, with a score of 64.

Nick Stace, UK Chief Executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “It appears that in the last 12 months nothing has happened to improve the way young people in Greater Manchester and across the UK are feeling about their lives. It is very sad to see the Youth Index score remain at its lowest level, and concerning that the considerable decline we saw in the Index last year has shown no recovery.

“Since the Youth Index launched a decade ago, social media has become omnipresent in the lives of young people and this research suggests it is exacerbating what is already an uncertain and emotionally turbulent time. Young people are critical to the future success of this country, but they’ll only realise their full potential if they believe in themselves and define success in their own terms. It is therefore a moral and economic imperative that employers, government, charities and wider communities put the needs of young people centre stage.”

The effects of social media on young people are still unclear, and more than a third (37 per cent) of Greater Manchester respondents claim that social media makes them feel like they can have a voice for their generation and influence positive change. A third (33 per cent) of respondents believe spending time on social media makes them happy. However, more popular responses included sport (39 per cent), earning enough money to live how they want (55 per cent) and spending time with family (74 per cent).

The Prince’s Trust gives young people the support needed to stabilise their lives, helping to develop the core skills needed to thrive in education and work. The Trust is enhancing mental health and wellbeing content across its programmes, aiming to boost mental health literacy, improve wellbeing, and reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

The Trust has convened the UK2030 taskforce, which has just committed to two new field trips in England and Scotland, meeting young people and mental health experts on the ground. This will develop constructive, actionable recommendations for businesses, third sector and government to ensure young people are healthy, happy and safe.

The charity is using its social media channels to challenge young people’s perceptions of success, encouraging them to re-define success on their own terms and set achievable goals.

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