Be Skinny, Be Muscular, Be Something Else
Around 3.6 billion users worldwide are impacted by the endless content available on social media. The appearance-related content, at many times, portrays an esteemed version of bodies that are mostly unrealistic but still cause a rise in insecurities and harmful expectations for one’s own body. The representation of societies’ “ideal” body types likely causes younger generations to want to reach similar body expectations leading to unhealthy habits, harmful mental impacts, and possibly eating disorders. Thus, the impact this has on the perception of one’s body negatively affects people mentally and physically.
Photo obtained from psychologytoday
Social Media is filled with peers, celebrities, strangers, and advertisements that present bodies in the best light possible, and this type of representation can cause self-dissatisfaction. According to Insider, the hashtag fitspo plays a role in the trend of self-deprecation, which means to under-value oneself. The #fitspo content, popular on Instagram, intended to encourage individuals to live a healthier lifestyle. However, the impact differs from the original intention, and the hashtag, which has over 70 million posts, has glorified slenderness and muscular figures. Desiring a “perfect” body is likely to provide a mentality that your body is not “good enough” because it doesn’t look like what you see on the screen.
In many cases, the harms of self-deprecation and rise in insecurities from scrolling through social media can result in depression, eating disorders, negative moods, and other negative mental/physical impacts related to body image. The correlations between time spent on social media by teenage girls and the development of negative body image and eating disorders are shown through a study conducted in 2011 by the University of Haifa. Additionally, it was recorded that one-third of adults in the UK say to have felt anxiety and depression due to body image issues. These negative effects demonstrate how harmful an effect on body image can be.
To consider the positives, social media can be beneficial toward body image if the representation moves away from mainly portraying “ideal” bodies to show all types. The body-positive movement on TikTok has helped open up the lies about how bodies look by portraying realistic representations.
Nonetheless, the content available on social media is vast, and harmful effects are one click away depending on how much is explored. An 11th grader, who wishes to be anonymous, agrees. “I definitely feel insecure at times looking at others [on social media], especially when watching people dance. I’m a dancer...”
Hitha Sunkara, from Cerritos High School, stated “Social media has impacted how I view my body in a negative way because I feel that hearing everyone’s thoughts on the pictures you post make a negative impact on how I look at myself.”
Experiences can vary but the content available has the potential to harm one’s body image due to the unwritten expectation of how individuals are supposed to look. Social media can encourage a be skinny, be muscular, be something else mentality, so it is helpful to be mindful of how much care is given to these platforms.