Social media bombards us with highly edited images of glamorous women with “perfect” bodies and fake hair, all living the life by the poolside with their ripped husbands and squeaky clean children wearing Gucci.
Comparing yourself to the unrealistic body ideals on social media can leave you feeling like your body doesn’t match up, causing emotional distress, obsessive behavior to try to “fix” what you aren’t happy with, and negative self-talk. These are all signs of social media’s sinister impact on body image.
Comparing other people’s highlight reels on social media to our bad days can desolate our self-esteem. Keep reading to find out why this happens and how you can still enjoy social media without negative repercussions.
How social media affects our body image
Social media platforms can have a very visual approach to how people portray themselves. Certain platforms rely on predominantly posting images and this may encourage the focus to be on the appearance of you and your life, and not the reality.
This fixation on appearance dramatically affects body image. No matter how healthy your body is, comparing it to pictures of photoshopped models all day will have you finding flaws you never realized you had! This, my friend, is a slippery slope to bad body image.
It’s too easy to get caught up looking at pictures of women and men with “perfect” bodies and wondering ‘how?’. Half the images we see on social media have been drastically edited. Learning to analyze photos with a more critical frame of mind can make all the difference.
Studies show that people with a critical eye whilst looking at too-good-to-be-true photos, were less likely to experience any drop in body image. The reason is that they were aware that the images were fake, and instead of wondering why their bodies didn’t match up, they wondered how the editor worked such a miracle!
Toxic social media use and low self-esteem
Social Media’s Review System
Social media is driven by peer review. Likes, comments, and followers can give you a false sense of security within yourself. This can become a problem with the inevitable peaks and falls of post popularity. Throw a negative comment in the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.
A drop in engagement might have you stressing about how to match up to the likes and comments from your last hit post. Obsessively looking at how many likes your new post has and what number your followers are at, are both signs of toxic social media usage.
Peer Pressured Posting
Social media platforms may have you feeling pressured to only post pictures where you look your absolute best. In some cases, you may feel peer pressured to post pictures of yourself that you may not even be totally comfortable with.
Just because booty bikini pics are in doesn’t mean you have to step up to the plate to prove yourself on social media. If you are prone to sensitivity regarding body image, this could be a dangerous move.
Comments are unfiltered on social media and not everyone might have a nice thing to say. Only post things that you are comfortable with and take comments with a pinch of salt. If you are highly sensitive, don’t be afraid to turn comments off altogether.
Social Media and Eating disorders
Despite what we see on the surface, there are some dark corners on social media where we can slip into unhealthy circles and catch ourselves lost in a community of people that do not have our best interest in mind.
Pro-ana and pro-mia communities on social media have created a place where participants, especially teens and young adults, encourage each other to follow through with dangerous behavior. They share hacks and advice, feeding each other’s illnesses and labeling recovery as a weakness.
Social media can be a dangerous place for anyone suffering from an eating disorder and should be used wisely. Luckily there are also communities on social media encouraging recovery and offering a safe place to share stories and healthy advice.
Healthy Social Media Movements
There are quite a few lovely social media movements striving for body positivity and acceptance.
Some of the top trending body-positive movements on social media right now are:
- #healthateverysize / #haes
These social media movements are paving the way for normalizing bodies that are outside the traditional beauty standards we are all too familiar with.
Social media can be molded into a tool to help uplift you and form a trusting online support system. Choose to only follow groups and people that are like-minded and inspiring.
Social media, if used in an irresponsible way can contribute to toxic mindsets and body image, and if used with purpose can change everything.
Filter out whatever doesn’t serve you and be conscious about what you feed your soul with the imagery and advice you surround yourself with.
If you find yourself struggling with negative self-talk or a lack of confidence after spending time on social media, take a social media sabbatical. Return when you are ready to change things up and do a social media make-over to transform your social media into something that serves you instead of something that destroys you.