Getting to the Root: How Social Media Affects Body Image

Getting to the Root: How Social Media Affects Body Image

#GTTR: A content series that dissects the personal, social, and political issues that matter to our Yellow Beauty community. This week, we're talking about how social media affects body image.

The average person spends around 145 minutes per day on social media. Time passes quickly when you’re scrolling. But, how does that time affect your well-being? For many of us, the stream of touched-up and seemingly flawless people can influence how we see our bodies– for better or worse.

Here’s a closer look at the undeniable connection between social media and body image.

Is social media bad for your body image?

You’re scrolling through social media and an image makes you pause. Maybe, it’s an acquaintance showing off their “perfect” skin. After looking at it for a while, you might feel extra critical of your own skin. You might start to think: Why don’t I look like that? Or even: I should work harder to look like that!

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. A recent study showed that 1 in 4 American adults said they felt bad after looking at another person’s social media posts. Another study focused on women ages 18-27. When participants engaged with posts by attractive peers, their perceptions of their own bodies became more negative.

Why does social media have this effect? 

Research is still in its early stages, but a lot of it comes down to three words: comparisons, photoshop, and filters. Comparing ourselves to others is a natural human instinct and can be useful as a tool for self-improvement. However, it can also lead to constant, even obsessive, comparisons which are detrimental to your self-esteem. 

At the same time, with photoshop and filters, people create misleading images of themselves that can lead to unrealistic ideals. You might strive for something that isn’t even possible (for you or anyone).

Plus, most of the images we see on social media are without context. We don’t know the hours of exercise that went into achieving that flat stomach, or the various products and medications a person might’ve gone on to achieve clear skin. Without this background info, it’s too easy to assume that a person achieved “perfection” without effort. This can make you feel bad about the work put into your own body.

Making your social media experience more body positive:

As bad as social media can be for body image, it’s hard to give it up. It’s a fun way to stay connected with friends, record your own experiences, and travel around the world from the comfort of your home. 

So, how can you engage with different platforms without creating or feeding into a negative relationship with your body?

  • Tap into the body positivity movement: The body positive movement is all about accepting and celebrating real bodies, in all their different shapes. Research has shown that even brief exposure to more of this type of content can boost your mood and body satisfaction. So, seek out those accounts and that community that makes you feel good. Here are a few good people to start with: Kellie Brown (@itsmekellieb) Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared), and Kadeeja Sel Khan (@emeraldxbeauty).
  • Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad: Next time you’re on social media, pay attention to the way different accounts make you feel as you scroll. Notice the images that make you feel bad and consider unfollowing those accounts. That anxiety or slight dread you feel when logging on? You might find it diminishes with each icky account you eliminate.
  • Take a break: Whether it’s for a day, a week, a month, or more– don’t be afraid to step away for a while. Sign it’s time? Feeling consistently worse after you use social media. If you’re not ready to totally disengage, consider setting daily time limits. Like any activity, taking some time away can give you new appreciation and energy for it.

Social media has been deemed a toxic mirror– reflected back are images that say you aren’t good enough. But, what if you tried making it into a friend? A place that encourages your interests and applauds those features that make you… you.

Photo Credit:

  • Michelle Elman (@scarrednotscared): https://www.instagram.com/p/CSt4cpgI5_K/
  • Kellie Brown (@itsmekellieb): https://www.instagram.com/p/CWLX2Q5paCN/

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