Social Media and Body Image

Article from Lindsay Martin, MS, RDN, LDN |

How many of us have a Facebook or Instagram account? What about LinkedIn or Pinterest? Since the development of smartphones, the use of social networking applications has exploded. Social networking sites are a way of connecting with peers, friends, family, and colleagues. At a glance, this seems like a very convenient way to connect and stay connected with people you meet through life. They allow ideas, information, and messages to be spread rapidly across the globe. All of these things are positive consequences of social networking sites, but do the negative consequences outweigh the positive? Since the development of social networking sites, people share images of what they’re doing, where they’re going, and what their bodies look like. With this comes an open invitation for comparison. There have been dozens of research studies showing the correlation between social networking sites and body dysmorphia and disordered eating patterns. The majority of the studies look at adolescent and college aged individuals, their social networking site usage, and the prevalence of body dysmorphia and disordered eating. Almost all of the studies show a positive correlation between these things.

So think to yourself, “am I or do I compare myself to others on social media?”. Do you sometimes get looped into a rabbit hole of pictures upon pictures of what others are doing and where people are going? Do you find that you’re not as productive because of the time spent on social media? If you answered yes to any of these questions or all, then it is suggested to evaluate your usage of social media as a whole.

In the article ‘A Systematic Review of the Impact of the Use of Social Networking Sites on Body Image and Disordered Eating Outcomes’ the results of twenty peer-reviewed journal articles were analyzed and compared. All of them showed evidence that social networking use has been associated with increased body dissatisfaction and disordered eating across all genders. This review shows the prevalence of this issue and the importance of finding ways to prevent this from happening while using social media sites. The research of the peer-reviewed journal articles shows that individuals can start experiencing both disordered eating habits and body image issues within four weeks of using social networking sites. In less than a month an individual can go from being happy and confident in their body and their eating happens to second guessing everything they are doing and eating as a result of these sites. The majority of individuals compare themselves more to peers than celebrities or models because they seek out comparisons with those they are more similar to. In addition, the speed and ease that individuals can post to social media sites and interact with posts and images on social media sites allows very easy access for an individual to be able to compare themselves to what they are interacting with.

Three Ways to Help Social Media’s Influence

Follow accounts and people who share common beliefs and values as you.
Follow body positive accounts and content creators
Know when you have had enough and put limitations to how often social media influences your day.
You give priority to the important people and things in life, make it a priority to have positive influences each day!

Resources: Holland G, Tiggemann M. A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body Image. 2016 Jun;17:100-10. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.02.008. Epub 2016 Mar 18. PMID: 26995158.

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