During my studies I completed a research project that looked at the effect social media platforms could have on body image – particularly those suffering from poor body image issues.
Speaking to my respondents (all of whom had received or been receiving therapy for body image issues), some of the main common themes coming up were an increased encouragement to compare themselves to celebrities or public figures they followed on social media; an increasing pressure to lose weight; overwhelming feelings of low self-esteem and not feeling ‘good enough’ after prolonged times spent on social media.
Although the research only spoke to a very small pool of body image sufferers, it certainly opened up a discussion around the role social media may play in the increasing rise of eating disorders and mental health issues across the UK.
I have spent most of my life managing a poor body image issue. I have struggled with mirror gazing and low self-esteem, particular attributes to body dysmorphic disorder. Has my social media feed fed my body image issues?
There have been countless times when I’ve got myself lost down the rabbit hole of Instagram and Pinterest. My search history would certainly include various fad diets or celebrity weight loss plans. How has this all left me feeling? Has it had an impact on my body image issues? Can I really lay all the blame on social media, or is that the easy option?
Well, yes and no.
Yes I can hold social media accountable for some of the content it allows to be posted. It’s no secret that there are some extreme hashtags out there that help navigate some of the most vulnerable people towards sites that actively promote or glorify eating disorders, self-harm and even suicide. This is unacceptable in every possible way. Whilst I accept that social media moguls will exclaim that their platforms are merely curatorial in functionality, that is not good enough when it comes to content that has the power to indirectly end a life.
And on the flip side, no, I cannot lay all the blame at social media’s door. My issues are my responsibility, and as such, I am responsible for how much I expose myself to potentially triggering content. I am the curator of both my life and my feed no?
I regularly ‘purge’ my account, removing anyone who does not inspire, challenge, educate or make me smile. I set clear boundaries for myself, giving myself time limits and rules on posting and scrolling. This isn’t for everyone, but what it does for me is keep me safe. It also enables me to remain focused on my own self-worth. On the simple notion that maybe I am more than my aesthetics.
In a world where it can sometimes feel everyone is out there to make judgements, I choose to understand; to empathise. Social media is like water, it adapts to the vessel it fills. My vessel is love and that is how I choose to use it.