How does social media affect self-esteem/ body image?

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Introduction: Social Media & Mental Health

In today’s modern world, children under the age of two spend an average of 42 minutes on social media per day. 42 minutes a day may not sound like a lot, but when it comes to infants who can barely lift their finger, let alone walk or talk, it’s a big deal. Childhood development is one of the most important periods in a person’s life; children’s’ brains are very malleable, and so it is extremely important that they are guided properly. This concern does not not only apply to children and infants though. Almost all teenagers (ages 13-17) use social media, the most popular of which is YouTube with an 85% usage rate. Teenagers’ “rapid development of the brain’s socioaffective circuitry may heighten sensitivity to social information, increasing the drive for social rewards and concern over peer evaluation.” This can quickly become a problem as teenagers can easily become obsessed with the positive feedback they receive through social media, causing them to become addicted. There has been a parallel increase between social media usage and mental illness within youth, “with rates of suicide among youth aged 10-24 increasing 56% from 2007 to 2017.” This clearly demonstrates the danger that social media can pose to children and teenagers. Additionally, one of the major problems with social media is the general obsession with appearance and perfection. As mentioned prior, teenagers have susceptible minds, and if they are constantly seeing images of “perfect” people, they will begin to think that that façade is “normal” and they, the teenager, are abnormal if they don’t look like that. Now, the question is, why is this an issue and how do we prevent it? 

“Definition of eating disorder

any of several psychological disorders (such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia) characterized by serious disturbances of eating behavior”
– Webster’s Dictionary

Eating disorders involve an obsession with weight and food. With the unrealistic standards of beauty that social media sends, many young teens start to compare their bodies. Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to the development of an eating disorder to achieve the “perfect” body.

Download this infographic here

What are people doing about it?

On all social media platforms, there is a body positivity movement and a “trend” of people spreading uplifting messages about different bodies. The aim of this movement is to add representation in the media and show diversity. Studies show that viewing body positive content helps improve self esteem. The downside with this type of content is that it is still focused on physical appearance, and that is not a healthy focus to have. It is healthiest to also give attention to topics that have nothing to do with physical appearance. 

Examples:

https://www.instagram.com/thebodypositive/

https://www.instagram.com/hi.ur.beautiful/

There is also a tiktok account where the creators are currently making an app called Herd that aims to remove the toxicity of social media by removing likes, followers, and overall creating something that is completely different from other current platforms.

@herd.app

#stitch with @oliviakylag social media is a scam #ig

♬ original sound – Herd | Social Media App
@herd.app

You ask, we answer. It’s time to move to greener pastures #socialmedia #femalestrong

♬ original sound – Herd | Social Media App

What can YOU do about it?

  • Share the infographic above and this webpage to spread awareness
  • Take this anonymous survey to help you reflect about what you learned
  • Disconnect from technology and social media
  • When connected to social media, avoid body or appearance focused content and try to follow accounts based on other things you enjoy

Organizations:

Click here to find a National Eating Disorders Association event near you

Click here to get involved with the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Click here to find a catalog of more organizations offering ways to help

Feel free to take this anonymous survey or comment your thoughts below.

11 Comments

11 comments

  1. Hi Keila,
    Your project topic is super interesting and super common in our society. Something interesting is how we might know people that suffer from mental disorders such as anorexia and we don’t even realize it. I really liked reading and listening to your thoughts about this issue, which is more common then we sometimes think. You’ve done a great job with your research and I really liked your approach when addressing this topic.

    1. Hi Keila!
      I really enjoyed gaining more information on the way that social media affects eating disorders. This is something that is so prominent in my community, and it was very interesting to learn more about what I can do to avoid it in the future. Your website cleared up various assumptions that have been made regarding the issue. Really great work! I enjoyed it!

    2. Thank you! Yes, you are right that sometimes people in our lives can be suffering from eating disorders or other mental disorders and we don’t realize it. I hope you were able to get some tips on how to help people who are battling with mental health in this way. Thanks for taking the time to read through my project!

  2. Hi Keila!
    I really enjoyed gaining more information on the way that social media affects eating disorders. This is something that is so prominent in my community, and it was very interesting to learn more about what I can do to avoid it in the future. Your website cleared up various assumptions that have been made regarding the issue. Really great work! I enjoyed it!

    1. Thank you! I really do appreciate you taking the time to look at my project.

  3. Hey Keila! I really enjoyed your project and the information you provide was really helpful for me to understand eating disorders better and how social media affects our mental health. This is a really important topic to know about and to spread awareness on so thank you for creating this webpage. I know like nothing about the information you shared so I’m glad you shed a light on it.

  4. Hey Keila,
    I really enjoyed the topic you chose about the affect of social media on eating disorders. I think that this is a very important concept that many people are currently struggling with. I enjoyed how you mentioned in your infographic that a lot of people with eating disorders practice food restraining. I also really enjoyed how you included tik tok’s in your website because many people are consistently on tik tok so it connects well to the social media aspect of your topic. Overall really good job and I really enjoyed learning more about this topic.

  5. Hey Keila,
    I really enjoyed the topic you chose about the affect of social media on eating disorders. I think that this is a very important concept that many people are currently struggling with. I enjoyed how you mentioned in your infographic that a lot of people with eating disorders practice food restraining. I also really enjoyed how you included tik tok’s in your website because many people are consistently on tik tok so it connects well to the social media aspect of your topic. Overall really good job and I really enjoyed learning more about this topic.

  6. Thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to look at it.

  7. Hi Keila! Your topic is something that should be talked about more often, especially since phone and social media usage has spiked during the pandemic. I also like how you mentioned that although the body positive movement is helpful for cultivating self-love and self-acceptance, it still has a focus on physical appearance, which says nothing about a person’s qualities, values or personality. I think that the body positive movement is definitely a step in the right direction, especially on platforms like Instagram where we are often separated from reality. Thank you for speaking about such a pressing and relevant issue. I enjoyed reading your project!

  8. Hi Keila!
    Your research question is one that I wondered myself throughout my time in this Abnormal Psychology course because it is so relevant to what our age group/generation faces today. I really liked your example of the Tiktoks that shows that creators are actively trying to use social media to spread more awareness about the effects that social media can have! I agree that “trends” can be both great in getting people’s attention but can also be harmful at the same time. I think that focusing attention on other content or taking a pause from social media use as hard as it sounds can be extremely beneficial and spreading these tips and pieces of information will hopefully help improve this issue!

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