Social Media and its Effect on Body Image

Serina stands against the bridge by the Student Center.

This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Healthy Campus Initiatives. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanHCI on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

For someone like me, I cannot go one day without using social media and its features. I check my socials multiple times a day! A lot of people may not agree with this, but for many others, this is true. 

Yes, social media is entertaining and useful for keeping in touch with others, but there is also a lot of negativity from these sites. Features, like Snapchat filters and Instagram filters, can warp some users’ understandings of their appearance. While some people may not be affected, more impressionable users may feel like they must compare themselves to what they observe on these sites. 

Last year, Google took the bold initiative of removing default face filters from its Pixel devices. The company spoke with mental health professionals around the world and concluded that filters contribute toward people’s decreased well-being, especially because they are unaware that filters default on the picture. Google admitted it would make filter usage more transparent to its users. Google also removed any “beauty” terminology. Its goal was to stop equating filters with “beauty standards.”

While this is a tiny step in the right direction, many other platforms have not made strides to fix people’s body image issues. 

Serina sits outside on campus.

Insider reports on a 2018 study claiming user time spent on social media correlates with negative body image and unhealthy eating habits. Social media influencers play a role in this case. Many influencers promote products, such as Flat Tummy Tea or Anti-Appetite Lollipops. This teaches social media users that drinking special teas and suppressing hunger will cure their body image issues.

However, we cannot rely on “instant fixes” to help us feel better about ourselves. Insider mentions a quote by Neda Chaudhary M.D. who says: “People end up creating unrealistic ideals for themselves based on what they see and feel distressed when they aren’t able to meet those ideas or self-expectations.”

We must remember that most of what we see on social media is fabricated. Instagram is rampant with filter use and editing. With the rise of Photoshop apps, we cannot compare ourselves to an unachievable standard. Even some body-positivity pages can be misleading.

Some ways to get into a positive mindset include taking a break from social media, disconnecting from pages that may upset you and creating your own happiness.

Insider mentions that social media is not the central problem; rather, we cannot let it control our perception of reality. 

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Story by:
Serina Gonzalez, M.A. in Strategic Communication student from Bergen County, NJ

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