The words ‘social media’ and ‘negative body image’ are ones that often come hand in hand. The idea that social media - with its constant stream of images and information -
causes negative body image and eating disorders is one that has been heavily pushed by society - and while it can also contribute to the promotion of unrealistic beauty standards and lead to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and negative body image, it can also be a platform for promoting body positivity, self-acceptance and diversity in physical appearance
This blog post will explore the good and the bad of social media, and ways one can use social media in a way both mindful and responsible.
Firstly: the negative effects of social media.
On popular platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok, users are often presented with a highly curated feed of models and celebrities that have edited photos and/or videos of their bodies to better fit the beauty standard. Even celebrities and models that don’t edit their photos and ‘meet the beauty standard’ have often achieved so through unhealthy dieting and exercising cycles, as well as cosmetic surgery.
Social media often tends to create an environment for comparison - it is easy to scroll through the endless stream of photos and videos and wonder why you don’t look like all the influencers. But that’s the problem; not even the influencers look like that.
Seeing so many people with seemingly perfect bodies can create a distorted view of what is considered "normal" or "beautiful". This can lead to individuals feeling pressure to conform to these unrealistic standards - a gateway for eating disorders.
However, it isn’t all bad - while social media can have a negative impact on body image, it can also be used in a positive way to promote a healthy body image.
There are hundreds - if not thousands - of influencers who choose to share real, unedited photos and videos of their bodies and challenge traditional beauty standards. The body positivity movement - something that has gained great traction and popularity online - is a great example of how social media can issue and support change in the perception of bodies. This positive representation of people living happy lives in a diverse range of body types is crucial when trying to counteract the narrow and unrealistic standards often presented in traditional media.
Social media can also help educate others on disordered eating and the dangers that presents to one’s mental and physical health - and if someone is dealing with an eating disorder, social media can provide a community of support for that. Through online groups and forums, you can connect with people who can understand and relate, as well as offer support.
It's important to remember that social media is not a direct cause of negative body image, but rather a reflection of societal expectations and cultural norms. By being mindful of the content one consumes and actively seeking out positive representation, social media can be a powerful tool in promoting a healthy body image.