Is social media destroying our bodies
Social media has become one of the greatest communication tactics. People can choose how much of their lives they want to share with their peers. Whether that be a tweet of a newfound recipe, wishing someone happy birthday on their Facebook wall, or sharing a photo to Instagram from a friends Halloween party. Our lives can be an open book, or we can choose to share snippets of our story. It can also play a part as a villain in our stories, especially for those who struggle with disordered eating or exercise habits. While social media alone is not usually the sole cause of an eating disorder it can change the way we think about food and perceive our self-image.
I recently got to thinking about how many photos young adults are taking until they get the “perfect” shot. No matter the time of day or location I know I will step outside and see at least one person posing for a photo. To many this seems harmless, so why is it dangerous? Those who struggle with an eating disorder are often consumed with this idea of perfection. Our society has created this idea that to be what we call “perfect” you should appear always put together and usually on the thinner side.
It is very common for someone diagnosed with an eating disorder to constantly compare themselves to other people. Our standards of who we are comparing ourselves to have shifted from viewing people walking on the streets to photos on Facebook, Instagram, or Tik Tok. We are now comparing ourselves to what people look like less than 1% of the time. Think about it this way – have you ever considered posting a photo that you don’t think you look great in? My guess is no. We are comparing ourselves to the best version of everyone which is unattainable in our everyday lives.
As an eating disorder therapist there are a few tips and tricks I give my clients to bring them back to reality when scrolling through social media.
- What we see on social media IS NOT REAL. People edit their photos, take 100 pictures to get 1 good one, and put on a full face of makeup/get dressed in their best outfit for everyone to see.
- No 2 people are the exact same. It’s impossible for us to compare ourselves to another person because we are all unique to ourselves. Yes, we have opinions about other people but at the end of the day the only person we must rely on, and love is ourselves. People will come and go, but our relationship with ourselves is forever. Don’t let your uniqueness fade away because you are trying to be someone you’re not.
- Change the mindset. No photo or person should make you feel less beautiful than you are. We have to be willing to change what we allow our minds to take in and what we believe about our ourselves. We can create positivity in each interaction that we have on these platforms.
- Don’t be afraid to unfollow if content is triggering or becoming negative for your mental health.
#What I eat In a Day!
There is a new trend going around the new and popular social media platform, Tik Tok, called “what I eat in a day.” Users are posting 30 second videos with clips of what they eat in a day for the world to see. This trend has blown up as people are so invested with what others are eating in a day. Since this trend has blown up it has become an increasing issue with those who are so called health and wellness influencers posting what they eat in a day to achieve a certain weight or body type.
The hashtag #whatieatinaday has 907,000 posts on Instagram of people sharing their food routines. This can be very triggering for someone who struggles with an eating disorder or is in active recovery. What each of us eats in a day should be curated to our specific bodies, how active we are, our height, etc. It should NOT be based on what other people are eating.
Many dietitians discourage these posts as they are dangerous. Young adults are choosing to what to eat based on what their favorite influencer is consuming even though it may be the exact opposite of what that person’s body needs. For many people if their diet doesn’t look like someone else’s online it can lead to feelings of guilt which is a common feeling associated with disordered eating.
The posts can be extremely misleading and deceiving as influencers are posting content about what they want their audience to see. Since the thin ideal is such a huge topic in media it only makes sense to post according to our societal definition of what we should eat to be “healthy” or “lose weight”. Health isn’t defined by how thin we are, it’s unique to each person.
Changing our Comments, Shares, and Likes to reflect our mindset
“A recent study of women between the ages of 18 and 25 indicated that greater Instagram use was linked to increased self-objectification and body image concerns, especially among those who frequently viewed fitspiration images.” (NEDA, 2018)
My advice to anyone to anyone struggling with an eating disorder who is triggering by social media would be to change our mindset around these platforms. Instead of being so critical of ourselves when we see a photo on social media, we should ask ourselves if the bodies in the images have been edited or if they’re realistic? What is the purpose of sharing that image? Are they trying to sell us something?
Various social media platforms have become a billboard for what we should look like. Social media has the ability to build each other up positively, but in order to do so we have to be selective of our thoughts and posts. Instead of commenting “You look so skinny” let’s put comments out there about the actual person in the photo, not their appearance. If more people did this our feeds would be filled with positive affirmations about an individual’s personality rather than giving into the idea that we are only what our outer appearance is.
If someone you know or yourself is struggling with an eating disorder the National Eating Disorder Association has an online chat, call, and text center to provide support and recommend treatment options. You are not alone in this battle.
A huge thank you to our new friend, Mollie Smetana for sharing her knowledge and wisdom on this super important topic.
To learn more about what she does and to connect with her, click the following links: