Social media: unrealistic body standards

In recent years social media consumption has increased greatly. Social media plays a large role in many people’s lives, especially women under 25. Girls are the biggest users of social media as a way of communicating and creating their own online identity. Every day, hours are spent scrolling through Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat, and other applications staring at pictures and videos of models with unrealistic body standards. Extensive exposure to this type of content can negatively impact young girls by causing body dissatisfaction. Body dissatisfaction can lead to low self-esteem, eating disorders, and body dysmorphia. 

As a teenage girl myself I know just how harmful social media can be. People present the absolute best version of themselves, not the reality. Filters and edits are often used to change one’s appearance to look better. There is a tendency to see this kind of content and compare our own bodies. So, why do we continue to glorify unrealistic body image content?  

I know I spend too much time scrolling through social media posts that make me feel like I am not good enough. I often find myself only posting the things I perceive myself to look my absolute best in. I constantly feel pressure to post what is simply a highlight reel of my life. 

The National Eating Disorder Association recently conducted a study that found there was a correlation between Instagram usage and increased self-objectification among young women. Pictures and videos on social media affect how we seek validation. Self-worth can become defined by how many likes and comments a post receives. While social media does not directly cause eating disorders it does contribute. We often judge ourselves against others we see on social media. For someone vulnerable to an eating disorder this can be detrimental. As stated before, these images are often edited to paint an unrealistic beauty standard. One social media influencer and famous actress, Lili Reinhart spoke out about how fake body social media influencers affect young girls in an interview;

Lili discusses her own struggles with her body and calls out the people who photoshop their pictures. 

Posts about workout routines, the best ways to lose weight, and other content that promotes unrealistic bodies can be very triggering to someone with an eating disorder. Once you start viewing that type of content it becomes addicting. Social media companies program their algorithms to supply users with continuous content that can be harmful. The goal of their companies is for people to spend more time on their applications so they make more money. When you start viewing “fitness” accounts the algorithm will supply similar content to keep the user engaged. 

Young women dealing with disorders tend to deal with these behaviors in private. They often feel ashamed and alone. Instead of having face-to-face conversations, social media provides a false sense of real-world communication. In-person interactions are so important for mental health. It is crucial to be cognisant that personal interaction is not replaced by excessive time spent on social media. 

It doesn’t seem like social media is going away anytime in the near future so users should follow some helpful tips to avoid the harmful impacts. Try to be mindful of the content you view and who you follow. Follow accounts that promote health in a positive way. If you notice a post or account that makes you feel poorly about yourself, unfollow or take a break from social media. There will never be one body image every person can fit so we should value ourselves regardless of the standard set on social media. 

It’s important to be mindful and aware of social media’s effects. Users should keep in mind that the content they see is often created to look perfect and conceal flaws. Love yourself for the way you are and protect yourself from the negativity social media can have. 

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