The impact of social media on body image
In today’s tech-obsessed society, it’s rare to find people who aren’t using some form of social media. While it can be a great way to keep up to date with what friends, family and social groups are up to, it can also have some unhealthy side-effects – not least on your body image.
A number of studies have looked at the impact of social media on body image and well-being. In one study scientists found that increased Facebook usage resulted in lower overall satisfaction with life. Social media allows you to constantly engage in ‘social comparisons’ on-line, whether that’s lifestyles or looks.
But what makes social media unhealthy for body image?
Seeing images of friends on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram looking glamorous, healthy, and radiant can leave you feeling inferior and inadequate. Because these images are of people you know, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing you should and could look more like them.
If you’re finding that time spent on social media is impacting on your satisfaction with your appearance, here are my tips for making sure that your body image doesn’t take a battering:
Cut down your usage
If you’re constantly connected to social media, try cutting down your usage. Rather than checking every single update as it comes in, opt for looking once a day, or better still, try a social media diet for a few days. When you binge on social media, you could be over exposing yourself to images that leave you feeling down on yourself.
Beware the filter factor
Most of what is posted on social media (especially images) has been ‘filtered’. For example, there may have been several attempts at taking a picture, with the most flattering being selected. Personal images can be altered and Photo shopped – it isn’t just for celebs. I’ve seen examples of this amongst my own friends on Facebook. Instagram has a variety of filters that can be applied to photos to enhance their appearance, while there are a number of free ‘touch up’ apps available that allow you to edit and retouch photos before posting them on line. Remember, not every image is what it seems.
Focus on face to face connection
Even though social media allows you to reach people that you can’t always see face to face, whenever you want, there is evidence to suggest face to face connection is still vital for well-being. In terms of body image, social support is believed to be a protective factor against body dissatisfaction. So rather than always connecting via social media, make an effort to see your friends face to face – you’ll also get to see the ‘real’ them, without the Instagram filters 😉
Redirect your energy
Social media can be a drain on your time, as well as your body image. If you re-directed the time spent on social media, think about all the other things you could do? As well as face to face connection, refocusing your attention elsewhere, particularly on helping others, is believed to be another way to protect against body dissatisfaction. So why not redirect your energy in a more productive and fulfilling way, either through activities you enjoy, or helping a good cause?