Social Media and its Detrimental Effects on Body Image

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Alyssa Persichetti, Writer

Social media is a dangerous place for impressionable minds, especially youth. 


Sure, it’s great to see all the good going on in the world, being able to catch up with old friends and distant family, or to share your life with those around you. But with all the positives, there is also a negative side as well. 


Sometimes, whether they know it or not, people will post really harmful things that leave lasting effects on people and their mental health.


The biggest issue with how accessible social media is how it preys on young people. It is almost impossible not to second guess your size or figure when one body type is portrayed as beautiful, leaving anything else as unwanted and cynical. 


The lack of body diversity on social media is extremely harmful to those who may not have those “perfect” bodies that are plastered all over their feed. When exposed to influencers with plastic surgery or some serious photoshopping skills, some people may start to feel insecure about themselves and do whatever it takes to appear like these influencers all over their phone. The lack of representation in the media leads to body image issues for many people. For some people, some of these issues become so severe they end up as eating disorders. 


Eating disorders are more common than most people think. About 9% of people in the United States will have an eating disorder in their lives (source). Looking at that number, it seems low, but that is 28.8 million people yearly affected by an eating disorder.


There is no direct cause to  eating disorders, which makes them scarier, as they could happen to absolutely anyone. With that in mind, public media should praise all natural and healthy body types rather than the singular beauty standard they like to portray. 


Eating disorders are not just skipping a few meals here and there, they are very serious conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that negatively impact health, emotions, and motor functions. Eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness in the United States (source).  


Although eating disorders affect people of any weight, race, sex, or age, a majority of those who suffer from eating disorders are young women with a median age of eighteen to twenty (Source). On average, teenage girls spend about two hours on social media a day. Within this time frame, there is a lot of negative and unhealthy images or posts that people are able to be exposed to and photoshop is one of the unhealthiest things that young people can be exposed to. 


Photoshopping can range from either slightly enhancing one’s natural features or completely morphing their face and/or body into an unrecognizable person. Of course, there is no issue in trying to make yourself feel a little better physically with the use of makeup or even filtering photos for aesthetic purposes or just because you want to, but the problem arises when people make it seem like their photoshopped and edited photos are natural. 


This is a major problem with today’s influencers, by day they are posting about body positivity, yet by night they are editing a number of photos trying to wipe away any imperfections. When unnatural enhancements on the body are made to seem natural, it is dangerous to those consuming that type of media. Young girls and boys will be scrolling through their feed wondering “why don’t I look like that?” or “if she looks like that naturally, why can’t I?”. These questions lead to harmful thoughts and these thoughts lead to dangerous actions.


One example of influencers who use a heavy amount of photoshop are the Kardashians. The Kardashians are famous for their usage of photoshop and denying the fact they do. These women, and their bodies, are plastered everywhere you look. Their denial of photoshop pushes young girls to do whatever they can do to get that “perfect” body that all of them seem to have. If Kim K can have it naturally, then everyone else should be able to have it too, right?


 This sets unrealistic body expectations for these young girls and boys on social media. Everyone has the right to edit what they want, but letting young and impressionable people believe they are natural is very harmful. Teenagers are not going to have similar bodies to those of grown adults, so they should not be expected to. The only thing these expectations cause are insecurities and negative effects on people’s body and health. Eventually, these insecurities can lead to troubling times for adolescents as they start to desire these unrealistic figures. 


One anonymous student at Pentucket Regional High School talked about their struggles with body image and how social media played into this. 


This student feels that “Seeing certain things on social media is definitely hard to look at sometimes. I feel as if I have to look like these [people] I’m seeing all over my feed. It’s exhausting to pick up my phone sometimes”. This is completely understandable. Who would want to be using social media all the time when they are constantly comparing themselves to people who have access to photoshop and editing, professional makeup, professional trainers, and more?


Of course, it is unrealistic to not want to see someone in fear of jealousy, but when you have a certain desired figure shoved down your throat before puberty, it is hard to look at influencers or celebrities and not want to look like them. The problem is some people will go to extreme lengths to look like them. 


Overall, social media does more harm than good to the physical and mental health of many of its users. It creates an environment where people are encouraged to look a certain way and if they don’t, they better try. The negative and harmful effects of social media are present in almost every user’s life. Obviously not all eating disorders or body issues stem from social media, but a lot of them can loop back to it. 


Social media is a silent killer and is slowly ruining the lives of young minds everywhere.