How Social Media Influences Eating Disorders

The idea that media is a powerful influence on self-image and self-worth is not new. Global campaigns to reflect the normal, healthy, human body in all forms of media have spawned such changes as the creation of proportionately more realistic dolls and retail store clothing mannequins, along with education about the unhealthy extremes that fashion models must endure to keep their tiny runway frames. However, in the digital era, social media has unleashed a new onslaught of visual challenges that encourage people of all shapes, sizes, and build to compare themselves to the idea of beauty depicted on the screen and offers a continual reminder of perceived shortcomings and self-consciousness.

Always on: Social media

Unlike the print forms of media of the past, where perfectly photoshopped women lay sprawled across the binding of the latest edition of a fashion magazine, social media offers an instant, constant refresh of pictures, posts, and tips. There is no break and even when you are working, studying, or sleeping, your feed is updating with hundreds of new posts, each hoping to push normalcy to the realm of mediocrity and challenge each viewer to be as perfect as the 87-degree angle and image filter presents that the poster is. The warped reality of a lifetime of perfect post-worthy moments captured on social media feeds results leads to a distorted perception of the world in general.

No likes: Should I take it down?

Not only does social media offer tens of thousands of new videos, pictures, and ideas to be viewed daily, with a constant feed of new information, but it offers a chance to feed the feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness that may already be brewing. Social media, full of followers instead of friends, keeping up with each other through posts instead of conversations is a form of social isolation that only seems to deepen when self-worth is dependent on likes and shares. Those who struggle with self-confidence may take hundreds of photos before finding one they don’t hate. Add an image filter to hide their perceived flaws, and post it while holding their breath. While they wait for the notifications of likes, they will continue to scrutinize their reflection and wonder if all those who saw the image and didn’t offer a “like” saw the same flaws as they did. This causes negative self-thoughts to worsen and leads to greater anxiety and social isolation.

Body shaming in the 20-teens

“Social media presence” is a legitimate job title and source of income for those people who are beautiful or interesting enough to gather a following of hundreds of thousands of followers who will tune in to see what they are doing or buying today. Most of these personalities are models who promote thin or fit lifestyles and live a how-to tutorial on their social media feed for all their followers to enjoy.

Social media has allowed body shaming to take on a whole new level of cruel. Gone are the days of sharpie outlines of flaws at slumber parties with your trusted friends. Now are the days when a single image posted on social media is opened to the scrutiny and comments of millions of other social media users. Comments made from behind a keyboard tend to be much crueler without the face-to-face contact and perceived anonymity. The ability to save or screenshot images, edit, and repost them has inspired a whole new means of bullying and body shaming that seems to be relentless. Online “trolling” is a sport of sorts, where users actively seek out posts to tear down. Sometimes these comments or threads are not even close to how they actually feel and are a nasty attempt to ridicule and publicly humiliate someone on their own social media thread.

Behind the scenes

Social media is a world that centers around image. While behind the scenes is the mundane, the normal, the average: onscreen reality is altered to show glamour, perfection, flawlessness. Filters can be applied before a photo is snapped and then airbrushed, filtered, and edited afterward to create a post-worthy image. However, behind the scenes, even beauty queens have their cracks that must be airbrushed. Unfortunately, when all that is displayed are the perfect final products, it helps to push those on the brink of an eating disorder over the edge in the search for the impossible self-perfection.

Recovery and social media

Eating disorders may begin as a pathway to achieving the perfect post-worthy body, it is actually a dark passenger who holds you hostage from your own life and body. Embrace social media as a positive outlet to record recovery and seek out others who are finding confidence in their own skin. Purge your social media thread of accounts that perpetuate a negative self-image, and replace them with strong role models such as body-positive activists and self-love advocates.

For help identifying and treating your eating disorder, contact us at Canopy Cove. We are experts in the world of eating disorders and overcoming negative self-image. Contact us for more information today!