The Challenging 24/7 Social Circle

Image, whether perception or reality, can be a powerful construct. There is an old saying that, 'A picture paints a thousand words'. Never has this been more profound than in the times of social media; in fact, one could say an image can now speak millions of words and conjure up both good and bad connotations. Social media is a phenomenon, connecting people from all over the world and allowing more communication between friends and family. In its purest form social media is an amazing tool that, when used appropriately, can be very constructive.

Whilst social media can be highly effective if used appropriately, it can also be one of the most dangerous tools in the lives of young and impressionable adolescents. I am sure many of you have heard the ongoing rhetoric about cyber-bullying, online predators and moderating your child's social media use.  Many of us are aware of the issues and concerns, however, we still hear an ever-growing number of stories from schools all over the country about the problems they are having moderating the effects of the misuse of social media. I have no doubt that it is in the best interests of all of us to not only know what happens online but further understand why it is happening and how it may be affecting your son without you knowing it.

Social circles for many young men can be a daunting place, trying to fit in and be the most popular guy. Before the internet this anxiety and pressure was largely localised to the school yard or the shops after school, but now thanks to social media and constant digital connection, these pressures are 24/7. Due to boys constantly being connected they are now always within a social circle and whilst it is great that many of the boys want to stay in contact, it can, in some cases, cause stress, anxiety and unnecessary constant contact and in many cases unhealthy and unrealistic comparisons with others.

We often associate body image issues with girls who develop low self-esteem from constantly comparing themselves to others on the internet; believe me this issue is not just restricted to girls.  Unrealistic notions of 'beauty' are played out across all social media platforms, with Instagram becoming increasingly dangerous. For decades, we've focused our attention on the impact of body image on young girls yet forget the effects of social media on young boys and male adolescents. Seemingly harmless scrolling through social media feeds has far greater consequences than we are aware, with an ever-increasing number of boys developing body image and self-esteem issues in the same way girls have.


Incidences of suicide in Australia occurs three times more in males than females; this is a statistic that, as a Headmaster of a boys' school and a father, alarms me and is something that must be addressed. Boys can be just as insecure, vulnerable and in some instances just as psychologically covert as girls, even though they may not outwardly display this. We need to support our boys and reinforce in them that who they are, is not only good enough, but is excellent, and that their best is the best.

We know that social media means 24/7 connectedness to the social circle so, whilst you may do all you can to support your son/s, this anxiety and pressure may still continue to exert mental pressure. This is one of the reasons why I banned phones during the school day in the College last year. The goal was to not only encourage more face-to-face social interaction, but to also give boys a break from the pressures of social media. Many of the unwanted and unnecessary social feeds, comments, images and messages sent to people online would not be said to their face; because as soon as you look someone in the eye you develop a sense of empathy and understanding, something that is non-existent in the online chat world.

The solution to developing a better sense of worth and greater appreciation for the power of social media does not lie in one of the plethora of apps. Conversations between parents and sons is even more critical.

I encourage you to find time to sit down and speak to your son, encourage face-to-face social interaction, give them a break from the pressures of the 24/7 social circle and never fall into the 'that wouldn't be my boy doing it' trap – we need to be realistic.  Talk to your boys, ask what might be bothering them and reassure them that both you and the College are here to support them.

To the boys I leave you with this thought – you are a diverse, unique and wonderful group of young men, you will never all look or act the same as each other, this is the strength of diversity in humans.  What you can share with each other is the willingness to practice tolerance, empathy and above all else mateship through supporting not ridiculing the way others look and behave.