Who’s the Real Face Behind Your Social Media Accounts: The Impact of Social Media on Body Image

By Jacquelyn McBride ’20

With the age of social media exploding over the past five years, the perceptions of beauty are evolving; teens and young adults are inadvertently correlating the images of people online with reality, causing eating disorders, mental health disorders, and body shaming.

According to NBC News, “over sixty-four percent of people claim to have edited their online photos.” Due to the startlingly high amount of filtered and corrected photos on social media outlets, the impression of “true beauty” has become flawed.

As images of skinny and seemingly “fit” models appear on social media outlets, many young adults believe they need to starve themselves to achieve thinner, model-like bodies.  Their eating habits can lead to fatal eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.  USA Today stresses the negative consequences of using social media, quoting multiple college studies that came to one conclusion: Facebook, and other social media sites, put users at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. Social media’s goal is not to belittle its users, but the body images being posted on these sites is detrimental to society.

Social media, although a positive platform for some, is now being linked to an “increase in fears about body images and pressures,” and is causing a heightened level of mental disorders in young females, according to The Guardian.  The Guardian even indicated that, “mental health problems have increased drastically over the last five to ten years—during the time in which social media exploded.”

Social media has facilitated too many edited and unrealistic body standards for too long, and it is harming users both physically and mentally.

Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter all have one thing in common: they supply tools to compare and earn approval for looks. These social media platforms open the doors to hurtful and derogatory comments about posted photos and videos.

While women are primarily publicized as the targets of body-shaming, men are just as bullied. Men’s Health Magazine puts male body-shaming statistics into perspective: “One out of ten men aged 18-34 have been trolled, ridiculed, body-shamed, or teased about their appearance or weight online or on social media.”

Social media, which originally intended to provide positive support and empower users, is instead enabling users to bully others for their weight and bodily “imperfections.”

Social media is used by people around the world in order to stay connected online, although these “connections” are not always positive. Edited and unrealistic photos are provoking eating disorders, mental health disorders, and body shaming. In order to combat the unrealistic expectations created by social media, cyber psychologists prescribe unplugging from the internet and leaving social media for extended periods of time. Internet addiction and technology dependency can leave self-conscious users depressed and saddened by what they see online. Body image needs to be embraced, no matter a person’s size, race, or age.

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