Have you paused to ask yourself, “How does my time spent on social media impact the way I feel about my body?”
In a culture that is heavily influenced by social media use, it’s important to take a step back and understand how engaging in social media makes you feel about your body. If you’ve struggled with a poor relationship with food and your body, being proactive about your social media use is necessary to build a positive body image.
Does time spent scrolling through Instagram or Facebook make you feel good in your body? Or does seeing other people’s filtered highlights spark other feelings in your body, like shame, guilt, or anxiety?
If the later, you are definitely not alone.
Research has found a correlation between social media use and body image concerns, with increased social media usage being linked to low self-esteem, dieting behaviors, and a drive for thinness . According to the National Eating Disorder Association, the potential damage created by social media on body image goes beyond exposure to images that have been filtered and perfected . The interactions on social media fuel a drive for perfectionism toward an unattainable standard; many people find themselves inevitably making comparisons about their looks and body with others.
Learning to Make Peace with Your Own Body
If you’re finding yourself trapped in the comparison game or feeling less in your own body when scrolling through social media, be encouraged in knowing that you can write a different story for yourself.
Social media platforms aren’t going anywhere, and while it makes seem like a simple solution to avoid these interactions altogether, this isn’t addressing the root issue. Ultimately, building up your own body image in a positive way can help you navigate many situations that could potentially be triggering. Especially during our age of social media use, making proactive choices to intentionally support a positive relationship with your body are more important than ever. So on a practical basis, what might this look like?
If spending time on social media makes you feel less than stellar in your own body, here are some practical tips to begin feeling more comfortable in your own body today:
- Take an audit of the social media accounts you follow: This is a critical first step toward using social media in a way that supports a positive body image. Take an honest look at the people and accounts you are following. Do these accounts post images and statements that make you feel better in your own body? Or are you feeling drained and despairing after scrolling through your social media feeds? You have full permission to unfollow any of those accounts that don’t build up your body confidence. Intentionally create a social media feed for yourself that boosts your body image and that celebrates all bodies.
- Examine your intention behind your social media use: It’s important to remember that social media itself is not inherently a bad thing. It’s more about the reasons behind your social media use. For example, many people hop on social media to distract from boredom or even to procrastinate from important tasks that need to get done. Are you mindlessly scrolling through your social media to avoid something else that needs to be faced? Are you comparing yourself and situation to others on your social media feeds? Being real about your behaviors around social media can help you make better use of your time spent on these platforms.
- Dedicate some of your social media time to building body positivity: Many social media platforms and smartphones can help you evaluate how much time per day you are spending on social networks. Consider spending a fraction of that time engaging in activities that help you build confidence in your own body. This could be anything from spending time on a hobby you enjoy, reading an uplifting book, journaling, or investing in building relationships with those that lift you up. Social media can be a rabbit hole that leaves you feeling drained. Take that time back and use it in a way that empowers you and how you feel in your body.
- Nurture relationships offline that support your self-esteem and body image: With all the time we spend on social media, it’s easy to feel like virtual communication can replace face-to-face time with those people and relationships that are most important. Identify the people in your life that help build your self-esteem and be intentional about nurturing these relationships. Communicating on social media cannot replace time spent together with those who believe in you and lift you up in life.
- Focus on your qualities that have nothing to do with your appearance: When we’re engaging in the virtual world of social media, positive attention is given for images that fit society’s standard of beauty. This reinforces the idea that looks are the most important thing about us, but this is simply not the case. When it comes to your worth and value as a person and human being, remember that you are more than your appearance or your body size and shape. Remember those qualities and character traits about yourself that have nothing to do with your appearance. Maybe you have been resilient in overcoming hardships. Maybe you are compassionate towards those who are less-fortunate or encouraging to those around you. If you’re having trouble figuring out your character strengths, ask someone close to you to help you out.
Building a positive body image is a process and journey, not a destination that you will suddenly arrive at one day. In a world saturated by social media, be aware of ways that you can use these platforms to nurture your confidence and self-esteem while reminding yourself of your innate value and worth.
: Grace Holland, Marika Tiggemann. A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body Image 17 (2016) 100-110
: National Eating Disorder Association, “How Does Social Media Affect Your Body Image?”, https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/how-does-social-media-affect-your-body-image Accessed 22 January 2019