How Social Media Affects Body Image - NCS Grad, Sophie

ncs 2/05/2017

We are bombarded with thousands of images every day, which can portray lifestyles that are both unattainable and unreal. Body image is a huge issue for young people and through social media, we get to see millions of other people in ways that we couldn’t before. It’s easy to compare ourselves to either friends or celebrities online, but it’s this kind of comparison that can sometimes lead to harmful thinking towards ourselves. Perhaps we see ourselves as not being good enough because we see so much ‘perfection’ on social media. We follow models and celebrities who post pictures online that have been staged, edited and photoshopped - effectively selling us an image that’s entirely constructed. Sadly 31% of those respondents said that they want to change their appearance to look like someone else. With 27% of teenagers saying that they’re more concerned about their appearance than their physical health suggests there’s a huge problem.

Social media has become such a huge part of our lives – we can easily be drawn into the more negative aspects. Statistics found that out of the young people polled, 58% of teens expressed feelings of jealousy, negativity or insecurity because of what they see on social media. This negativity can be extremely harmful for our mental health. We often see body image issues affecting just girls, however 45% of boys feel affected negatively by their body image, which highlights that this is an issue that affects everyone.

It can be easy to become obsessed with the validation of gaining hundreds of likes on social media, and 32% of those polled say they have felt this way. Since social media is becoming more and more accessible, young people are turning to it for validation. Getting lots of likes on our selfies can be validating but what happens when we don’t get those likes? We might feel like we aren’t good enough, perhaps we are worthless because we don’t look the way we should.

If we’re feeling like our self-esteem is diminished from what we’re seeing online, what should we do about it? Firstly, remember that what we see on social media isn’t always real. Photoshop and other editing apps are easy to use and often, with just one tap, blemishes and imperfections can be erased. It’s also important to remember that social media is not the be all and end all.  There’s so much more to life than getting hung up on worrying about how many likes we get on selfies.  Maybe if we spent less time becoming obsessed with trying to change ourselves, we’d have more time to change the world?

Top tips for body positivity:

  • Stop comparing yourself to other people, whether that’s Kendal Jenner or your friends. You are you.
  • Stop following anything negative on social media – you don’t need it.
  • Hang around with and follow people who are body positive.
  • Never put others down about things they can’t control – like appearance
  • Get out there and do something positive!