Whether you are home, out on dinner, or on a subway; scrolling on social media will be common. We spend hours liking, commenting, and sharing hilarious memes, stalking celebrities and friends. Generally, it starts with ‘Oh! What a cool place and that dress are so pretty.’ and ends at ‘I wish, I was thinner.’ or ‘I am not pretty like her.’ or ‘I hate my body.’ We all are familiar with this drill. But no matter how hard we try to deny it, social media plays a major role in influencing our perception of beauty and body image.
According to a study conducted by Florida House Experience, 87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to what they see on social and traditional media. We cannot ignore these statistics because the negative effects of social media on body image can have adverse effects on a person’s mental health. Thus, it becomes necessary that users should be aware of the negative effects of social media on body image.
Negative Effects of Social Media on Body Image
Constant comparison with celebrities and peers is one of the ways social media affects our body image. More time people spend on social media it is highly likely that they might end up comparing themselves with an ideal body type. We set up unrealistic standards for our bodies. When we fail to meet those expectations we feel distressed. The toxic influencer culture also plays a part in this. Many women compare themselves to attractive strangers on the internet. The comparison is not limited to the size of their waist but also their skin, body hair, nose, lips, height, and whatnot. We can explain this by the Social Comparison Theory by psychologist Leon Festinger. The theory says that people evaluate and determine their personal and social worth by comparing themselves to others. Therefore, it results in low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders among young men and women.
Editing and Filters
Editing and using filters is another way that influences our body image. People use Photoshop to highlight and enhance the best part of their body and conceal flaws like blemishes, acne, pores, scars, and stretch marks. People constantly use editing tools to meet the unrealistic standards set by social media. In 2018, British actress and activist, Jameela Jamil called out magazines that use airbrush photos of female celebrities. This is a concerning issue because many young women idealize these celebrities. This forms a perception in the mind of the woman that ‘Beauty is Flawless.’ The filters and photoshop enables social media users to create a fantasy world where uneven skin tone, scars, stretch marks, and acne are not normal.
The social media accounts that encourage their followers to be fit and thin are called Thinspiration accounts. A few years ago in 2012, Instagram, Tumbler, Pinterest banned #thinspo (Thinspiration) after people raised the concerns of self-harm, eating disorders, and unrealistic body image. They made people hate their bodies and hammered the idea that being fit is equivalent to being thin.
On the other hand, a social media page with pictures of beautiful people with abs; working out and captions that read – Do It For ‘Holy Shit! You got hot.’ That is a #fitspo account. Motivation to stay fit was not a bad idea. But the problem was the kind of content and images these accounts share. The perfect body projected by these pages was unattainable for many people. They encouraged young men and women to over-train, follow a crazy diet plan and consume weight-reducing products. Food and Drugs Administration has not even approved many of these products. As a result, many women and men ended up starving themselves.
Social Media and Toxic Influencer culture
Young women and men who worship influencers and celebrities must realize, that their thin flawless, or muscular bodies projected to them are not real. Celebrities have resources hire to the best trainers, dieticians, and doctors that monitor their life very closely. Their flawless picture is a result of photoshop and airbrush techniques. The insane diet plans and weight loss products that they endorse are not safe. We have witnessed that people who follow these diet plans without any consultation with a doctor end having serious health issues. These influencers who masquerade as fitness experts are putting lives at stake for their own popularity.
Social Media and Body Positivity
Social media also has a positive side which we can not ignore. Body Positivity is a social movement that rejects the ideal body type and appearance set by society and pop culture. Initially, it was a movement that empowered overweight individuals. Later, it evolved as a movement that celebrated and embraced all body types. This movement fights against oppressive and unattainable beauty standards dictated in pop culture.
Social media played a huge role in spreading awareness about the movement. The body positivity influencer can change the narrative around body image especially among youngsters. You can find various communities on social media that promote body positivity. One such community is @i_weigh by Jameela Jamil. The page posts the pictures submitted by their followers where they highlight their non-aesthetic qualities.
How to Use Social Media healthily?
- Unfollow toxic social media accounts
- Follow body-positive influencers
- Use positive affirmation for your body
- Take a break from social media
Social media affects our perception of our bodies. Social media users are perpetually focused on their appearance as they consider it as the primary source of happiness and social acceptance. Hating your body and self-harm is not the solution. Your body is not your enemy. Therefore, it is time that we start embracing our bodies, rather than hating them.