Social media has become an integral part of our lives, and it has significantly influenced the way we perceive ourselves and others. Unfortunately, it has also played a significant role in the development of body image issues. In this blog post, we’ll explore the ways in which social media affects body image and what you can do to protect your mental health from being negatively influenced.
Body Image and Social Media
Body image is simply the way we see ourselves physically, including our body shape, size, and appearance. Social media has created a culture of perfection, where images of flawless bodies and unattainable beauty standards are constantly promoted and celebrated with increasing likes, shares, and comments. This has led to a distorted perception of beauty and an unhealthy obsession with achieving an ideal body.
But today’s crazed digital social media influence isn’t starting this issue, it’s merely continuing it.
The historical influence of media on body image can be traced back to the early 20th century, with the rise of mass media and the portrayal of thin, idealized bodies in magazines, films, and advertisements.
The 1950s and 1960s saw the emergence of the “perfect” hourglass figure as the ideal body type for women, while the 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of the supermodel and the emphasis on thinness as the ultimate standard of beauty.
It was during this time we also saw a rise in eating disorders. In a study published in the Journal of Eating Disorders, researchers found that the prevalence of eating disorders among young adults increased by 53% between 1995 and 2014.
It’s no debate that social media has become a powerful force in shaping body image, with filters and editing tools creating an unrealistic standard of beauty and the pressure to conform to today’s “beauty standard” and is having significant consequences on mental health for men and women of ALL ages, including the development of eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 69% of adolescent girls who use social media report that it negatively impacts their body image. Today nearly 50% of women and 25% of men struggle with their relationship with food. Yikes.
How Social Media Affects Body Image
Let’s look at specific examples in which social media negatively affects body image:
Comparison Culture: Social media platforms have created a culture of comparison, where people constantly compare themselves to others. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing your body to others who appear to have the “perfect” body. And even if it’s not the “perfect body” we compare ourselves to, it’s the perfect family, perfect job, perfect business, perfect relationship, etc.
Facetune and Filter Culture: Social media platforms also allow people to edit and manipulate their photos using various filters and editing tools. This has created an unrealistic standard of beauty, which is almost impossible to achieve in real life.
Influencers and Celebrities: Social media influencers and celebrities often have large followings and can have a significant influence on their followers. Many influencers and celebrities promote unrealistic beauty standards and unattainable body types and hide the amount of time, money, and energy they have to spend to maintain their “perfect” image or body in the face of the world.
Fat Phobia and Body Shaming: Social media platforms have also created a culture of fat phobia and body shaming, where people are judged based on their body size and shape. It’s easy to have an ignorant user make a body comment and steal the joy away from the photo’s intended purpose. If this has happened to you, know that says more about THEM than YOU.
Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is a serious issue that affects many people, particularly young people. Social media platforms have made it easier for people to engage in cyberbullying, which can have serious consequences on mental health, including the development of body image issues.
Protecting Your Mental Health
Although the pressure to confirm to unrealistic beauty standards will always exist to some degree, there are ways you can still choose to not participate in that and protect yourself from the negative effects of social media on body image:
Limit Your Social Media Use: It’s important to limit your social media use, particularly if you find yourself comparing yourself to others or feeling inadequate. Set boundaries and stick to them. Consider taking a break from social media altogether if you find it negatively affecting your mental health.
Unfollow or Block Negative Influences: Unfollow or block social media accounts that promote unrealistic beauty standards or engage in body shaming. If they trigger unhealthy thoughts about yourself, take control and remove your exposure to the source when possible and instead surround yourself with positive and uplifting content.
Focus on Your Own Goals and Achievements: Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on your own goals and achievements. Celebrate your own successes and strengths!
Practice Self-Care: Self-care is essential for maintaining good mental health. Take time for activities that make you feel good about yourself, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. What interests do you need to sprinkle more often into your life?
Seek Professional Help: If you’re struggling with body image issues, low self esteem or confidence, seek professional help from that of a coach, counselor, or personal development program that can help you crush limiting beliefs, strengthen your own voice and inner confidence, and embrace your unique YOU.
Social media has had a significant impact on the way we perceive ourselves and others, particularly when it comes to body image. You can’t control what social platforms are pushing these days, but you CAN control how you wish to participate on those platforms and what you choose to give energy too.
Remember that your worth is not determined by your appearance, and it’s okay to be different. And losing weight will NOT fix negative body image (Read about those myths here.) Embrace your unique qualities and celebrate your own strengths and achievements.
With the right mindset and support, you can overcome the negative effects of social media on body image and live a healthy, fulfilling life not imprisoned by the pressure to have the “perfect body” (whatever that is!).