March 20, 2018
As kids, some of us weren’t allowed to have social media.
Our parents were worried that we would use it irresponsibly or that unsolicited strangers would seek us out. The internet was a scary place for a young kid.
But a more implicit danger lurks on social media platforms today, and it is affecting how we view ourselves.
Social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, is contributing to the degradation of young kids’ self confidence. These platforms become a toxic mirror reflecting unrealistic expectations toward our body image. A mirror that portrays unreal expectations of body type, image and appearance of all ages, genders, sexuality and races that convince us that we aren’t good enough.
We have seen the ugly reflections of this mirror first hand; we have strived for thinner waists, whiter smiles, toned legs, even blonder hair.
We have witnessed our younger siblings and cousins who have social media accounts, some just the tender age of seven, asks us if they are “skinny” enough or if their clothes make them look “fat.”
It is a serious problem that children are facing body image issues, or even thinking about their bodies like this at all. In a survey of girls nine to 10 years old, 40 percent have tried to lose weight, according to an ongoing study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
For teenage girls, dissatisfaction with body image only grows. According to the National Institute of Media and the Family, 53 percent of girls aged 13 years old are unhappy with their bodies. By the time these girls reach 17, that number is at 78 percent.
When you’re this young, your body shouldn’t be scrutinized, objectified or seen as a moldable object; it should just be your body. Carefully curated images of models promoting dieting products on social media doesn’t help circumvent this.
Young girls are just one of the groups that are negatively affected by these over photo-shopped and edited images of models and celebrities that depict unrealistic body image expectations.
This issue is even more prominent in high school and college. Students are constantly surrounded by social media that show them the Instagram-worthy ideal body on a constantly refreshing feed.
These unrealistic expectations can often be a contribution to unhealthy disorders or habits. As many as one in 10 college-aged women suffer from a clinical or nearly clinical eating disorder, including a hefty 5.1 percent who suffer from bulimia nervosa according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Spending too much time on social media has also been linked to depression and anxiety according to a research study done by ScienceDirect.
There should be a certain amount of focus and importance for an individual to be healthy, such as eating healthy, exercising and getting enough sleep. However, there is a fine line between being healthy, and obsessing over appearance to the point when it becomes counterproductive for health.
Instead of focusing more on body image, we should focus more on living a healthy life, by exercising, being conscious of what you eat and taking care of your body and mind.
Social media shouldn’t dictate self-worth, body image or someone’s health.
The solution isn’t to not use social media, but rather approach it differently, by being mindful of photoshopped images, differences in body type and noticing when you start comparing yourself to others. Instead of comparing yourself to others, accept yourself for who you are and celebrate your differences.
Instead of worrying whether you’re skinny enough, fit enough, muscular enough or if you look like a photo you see on Instagram, be happy with in the skin you’re in and take care of yourself.