Body image can be defined as our own perception of our bodies, which can be positive, negative, or neutral. One of the ways in which this image of ourselves can be impacted is through the media that we consume and pay attention to. Social media is a form of media where engagement goes both ways; people can create content, network, and communicate with one another. Social media itself is not inherently bad, but not all types of content are equal when it comes to the impact it can have on our body image.
Appearance-focused content can change how we see ourselves and the standards that we set for our own bodies. We are constantly exposed to countless users of social media and their content on a regular basis. It is not just the exposure to these images that affects our self-esteem, it is how we interact with them. We may consciously or unconsciously compare our appearance to the ones we see online, use apps and filters to hide or alter the aspects of our ourselves that we would like to change and stay stuck in a loop of focusing on how we look and how other people look.
All of this can create a mental environment that is heavily focused on appearance and affects how we think we should look. This can create a harmful cycle of comparing and wanting to improve or change our appearance to better fit the images we see. It is common to prefer to show the version of ourselves that we find most socially acceptable or appealing, but this can be an enormous strain on our body image and self-esteem when we cannot meet those unattainable standards all the time.
Taking a step back and looking at how much time is spent on social media and what kind of content is taking up our time can be helpful. We can omit media that doesn't make us feel good or causes us to compare, and limit time spent on these platforms. Being mindful of how these images make us feel, think, and act, can be an important first step.
What unrealistic standards do you expect for your body? Do you look to certain people or platforms on social media for what is deemed attractive? How do these images make you feel?
By bringing awareness to our own habits and intentions when it comes to social media use, we can make choices that line up with our values and prioritize our own bodies and values over the ones we see online.
About the author
Jessie's Legacy, a program of Family Services of the North Shore provides web-based eating disorders prevention resources to support BC youth, families, educators and professionals. Visit us at www.jessieslegacy.com.
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