The Appeal of Social Media
You may think: Why does everyone spend so much time on social media? Research reveals that 70% of Americans are regularly online. Social media allows users to reach a large audience and interact with many other social media users. Social media can connect long-distance friends and families, foster the creation of new relationships and a possibility of finding new communities, inform users of current news and events, and serve as entertainment or a creative outlet.
More recently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, social media played a crucial role in disseminating information, according to the National Library of Medicine. Additionally, social media sites and advertisers use emotional appeals, which can be linked to online engagement and, in turn, behavioral actions. This is designed to keep engagement high regarding the type of social media use.
Impacts of Social Media Usage
There is an ever-growing amount of research on the impact of social media usage. Social media has most often been researched in connection with mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, body image, self-esteem, eating disorders, social comparison, and the quality of social relationships. Continuing research on social media has demonstrated that its impacts are more harmful than previously thought. Researchers have found adverse effects on body image, eating behavior, mood, and physical health, especially in teens and adolescents.
How Social Media Shapes Women’s Perception of Their Body?
According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, body image refers to the thoughts and feelings that you have about your body. Although anyone of any gender or age can experience issues with body image, women are more likely to experience this than men. In recent years, there has been a multitude of research that supports the notion that social media is one of the most common contributors to body image issues, according to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Social media creates a platform where people often put forward their “best selves” and best moments, creating the most idealized version of them through their online profiles. These photos are often edited unrealistically. These unrealistic beauty standards that are constantly portrayed on social media frequently result in social comparison. Individuals compare their appearances or lives to unrealistic displays on social media, leading to negative appraisals of their bodies and looks.
Social Media and Mental Health
According to Dr. Grant Hilary Brenner, a psychiatrist, social media is “potentially harmful both emotionally and physically.” Some of the mental health concerns related to social media use are:
Some research studies have found that depression symptoms can be relieved or reduced through social media use, as it could potentially reduce loneliness and foster new social connections. But there is also an overwhelming amount of research that supports the idea that social media increases feelings of depression due to social comparison and the lack of physical and emotional closeness with other people.
Studies have found that more time spent on social media was associated with higher anxiety levels and greater levels of somatic symptoms relating to anxiety.
Self-esteem and body image:
Traditionally, in research, it was found that the idealized versions of both male and female bodies displayed on social media can negatively impact the self-esteem levels of both men and women. According to the New York Times, males see idealized, muscular male bodies on social media, negatively impacting their self-esteem. For women, the idealized image usually portrays naturally slim bodies (and/or photos using slimming effects), makeup, or facial filters. In turn, these images affect women’s body image.
Social media exposure contributes to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. When one engages in social comparison with idealized images on social media, negative body image can form and cause unrealistic expectations of how one’s body should look, leading to unhealthy eating behaviors and disordered eating.
How to Reduce the Negative Effects of Social Media?
Although it is hard to refrain from using social media in an ever-advancing world like ours, there are some ways to reduce the negative effects of social media. Here are some important examples:
Reduce time spent online:
Reducing time on specific social media sites can assist in managing the adverse effects of social media. Because you are spending less time using social media, there can be reductions in feelings of anxiety, depression, and social comparison.
Carefully consider the pages or people you follow and how they make you feel:
This sometimes may involve removing, unfriending, or unfollowing pages that trigger thoughts of anxiety, depression, or any negative thoughts and feelings associated with body image. In addition, following more accounts that promote body positivity or positive emotions can be beneficial.
Avoid negative self-talk:
Social media often results in individuals comparing their lives to others. It is important to focus on your positive qualities and skills and work on self-acceptance. Remember, everyone is different and brings unique qualities and experiences to the table.
Engage in positive behaviors that build up your body image:
It is important to incorporate behaviors that build up a positive body image. According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, appreciating and praising what your body can do is a great way to build a positive perception of yourself and your body. In addition, maintaining healthy habits and creating positive goals relating to health (rather than weight) can further reframe body image.
Social media use has merits as it keeps us abreast with recent events, connects with family and friends, and gives us access to creative and professional outlets. However, unless it is used mindfully, social media usage can decrease our mental health and well-being.
Connect with a therapist who’s specialized in women’s mental health today.
Brenner, G. H. (2022, February 8). The impact of social media on body image, eating, and health. Psychology Today.
Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/experimentations/202202/the-impact-social-media-body-image-eating-and-health
Fleps, B. (2021, April 21). Social media effects on body image and eating disorders. Illinois State University News. Retrieved from https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2021/04/social-media-effects-on-body-image-and-eating-disorders/
Holtermann, C. (2022, March 21). Does social media affect your body image? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/21/learning/does-social-media-affect-your-body-image.html
National Eating Disorders Collaboration. (n.d.). Body image. Retrieved on May 7, 2022, from https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/eating-disorders-explained/body-image/
Yousef, M., Dietrich, T., & Rundle-Thiele, S. (2021, June 1). Social advertising effectiveness in driving action: A study of positive, negative and coactive appeals on social media. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8199559/