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How do I look? – Headmaster’s Blog – Tuesday 9th January 2018

January 9, 2018
Looking at your phone

How do I look?

There was a piece on the News recently from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, urging social media companies, parents and teachers to do more to help young people who grow up ‘chasing likes’. Anne Longfield said that social media is exposing children to ‘significant risks emotionally’, with a particular ‘cliff edge’ as they transition from junior to secondary school. She had commissioned a report, (published January 2018) called Life in Likes, which states that children become increasingly anxious about their online image as they head into their teens.

Whilst this report is not necessarily revealing something new, it does keep a critical area of young people’s development to the fore. It resonated for me with a book I have been reading (somewhat later than intended in the year) for Advent: Tim Chester’s The One True Gift. He writes:

We live in an age in which we constantly worry about how other people perceive us. “How do I look?” is one of our culture’s catchphrases. And no wonder. A couple of generations ago your identity was pretty much handed to you at birth. The chances were you would do the job your parents did and live in the area in which they lived. Today, social mobility means most of us have the freedom to invent and reinvent ourselves.

It can be a great blessing to have this freedom and to be able to explore and then seize new opportunities. However, it can also bring an increased level of anxiety: if my identity is down to me, then I can end up evaluating my performance time and time again. With social media it is magnified from ‘how do I look to the people in this room…in my work place…at school?’ to ‘how do I look to the online world?’ I desperately want them to give me the ‘thumbs up’ and to ‘like’ my posting, my picture and my persona.

I hesitate to ‘preach’ but I can’t help but quote from the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians (chapter 2). His advice, it seems to me, applies to us all whatever our faith position:

Philippians 2: 3-4

True humility is not found by pretending we are worse than we really are – something we self-deprecating British seem to ‘enjoy’ – but in how we think about others. As Chester writes: When you meet a humble person, you don’t come away thinking, “What a humble person”. You come away thinking, “That person was really interested in me”.

So, perhaps the next time we ask ourselves the question, “How do I look?” perhaps we shall find an answer in looking away from ourselves and in valuing others more highly.

Here’s hoping I can do this next time I look in the mirror – or on social media!

Alastair Reid (Headmaster)

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Ballard School is an independent, private co-educational school in New Milton, Hampshire, providing an outstanding level of education for nursery to GCSE. With small class sizes and proven academic excellence, we strive to nurture the academic potential of all students. Learn more about our academic programmes, pastoral care, facilities and school ethos by visiting our website or by requesting a prospectus here.

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