How Social Media Affects Body Image

Body image. These two words have been popping out on social media platforms lately. It has become a social movement that has stirred heated discussions worldwide. People are using the word ‘body image’ whether positively or negatively. It can inflict feelings of love, value, security, or even shame, depending on personal and environmental factors.

According to the National Eating Disorder, they define ‘body image’ as the way you see yourself in the mirror or how you portray yourself in your mind. Body image may depend on what you believe about your personal appearance, including your assumptions, generalizations, and memories.

People with negative body image can suffer from eating disorders and mental health issues. One example is those with anorexia, an eating disorder that leads to self-imposed starvation. Many young people with anorexia seek help in an anorexia recovery center to cope with their emotions and undergo treatment programs.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, are some of the biggest factors that influence young people’s body image. Advertising strategies promoting body objectification expose teens to unrealistic beauty standards. In this article, we’ll be exploring how social media plays a significant role in body image and how it has affected young people in terms of self-worth.

Social media use

Research suggests that social media usage has a direct correlation with body image concerns. Social media platforms are filled with advertising materials that depict unattainable and unrealistic beauty standards and body types. These digitally altered materials result in the distortion of reality, leading to negative thoughts about one’s body.

While research has proven the various factors in the emergence of eating disorders (e.g., genetics), those who are inclined to an eating disorder are more vulnerable to social media that heavily promote toned and thin body types and certain fad diets.

The widespread access to technological devices, such as smartphones and laptops, contributed to the rapidly growing social media landscape. Photo-based activities, such as liking and commenting on photos and posting selfies and whole-body images, have become attributed to an individual’s self-worth. As a result, those who receive fewer ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ are likely to feel unhappy about their appearance.

The rise of digitally altered images has also led young people to modify their images according to their preference or other people’s standards. There are plenty of free photo editing applications that come with various editing features to alter their facial appearance and body shape. Users can add filters, change their nose shape, whiten teeth, or make their bodies look thinner.

Photo applications are widely popular among adolescents, where they can construct their images based on how they want to be seen on social media. This promotes a toxic culture that can damage one’s body image. Unfortunately, many individuals are easily influenced by social media without knowing that the images and advertisements are not a real depiction of reality.

Exposure to photoshopped images of celebrities, stick-thin models, and social media influencers creates strong associations to body image concerns. This pushes social media users to go on a strict diet to achieve the same body type.

The dieting industry has introduced dieting trends that promote misleading messages, such as “clean eating”, “fitspiration,” and “thinspiration.” These diet trends filled every social media platform with images of thin models that stigmatize weight, dieting, and weight loss. Meanwhile, those who are looking for quick solutions for their weight loss end up having eating disorders to achieve their desired body shape in a short amount of time.

Believe it or not, there are online movements that promote eating disorders, such as pro-anorexia. Those who follow their platforms cause them to justify their eating disorders without knowing the destructive effects on their health.

Body image and social media

Studies show that frequent social media use can lead to body dissatisfaction among adolescents. When a person reaches a high level of body dissatisfaction, this can lead to serious threats to one’s well-being. Although the mainstream and social media platforms are not the only ones responsible for negative body image, their influence can’t be easily ignored.

With the media surrounding people with representations of idealistic body types, this creates an unhealthy obsession with weight, resulting in disruptions on mental health and emotional well-being. Given the link between body image and social media, treatment and preventative approaches are a must to promote realistic and positive messages presented by the media.

Having a positive body image can make a difference in our level of self-confidence and what we believe we’re capable to do. But with our experiences, life changes, and media messages, all these factors can lead to negative body image, making a person feel worst about their body. If you or anyone you know is suffering from distress because of their body image, it’s best to seek a mental health professional to overcome personal concerns.

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