How social media influences our self-perception
Written by Oliver Farrimond
So not long ago a friend of mine (for now lets just call him Steve) deleted all his social media accounts and I could never understand why anyone could or want to do that until I asked him why, the answer he gave me was quite shocking and I had never realised how harmful social media, a fun place for people to go when wanting to get away from the stress of real life, could be. Steve as well as thousands of other teenagers around the world using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, ect deleted his accounts because of social pressure to take the right picture with the right filter wearing the right outfit at the right place all these aspects were way to much pressure on Steve leading him to have depression, anorexia and feeling very insecure about his body image.
As we know perception is everything especially in a world of technology and social media. We want to be liked by everyone and with the power to broadcast yourself around the world this dream has never been easier.
There are a lot of articles and studies out there about the negative psychological effects of social media and its toxic depressing environment for body image, with the person we display on social media hardly ever the same person we are in reality. We highlight the best aspects of ourselves posting them for the world to see while hating all our other parts. This is a term called smiling depression where people act happy around people but secretly hate themselves, with other mental illnesses being highly common with heavy social media users. Social media causes us to forget that everyone has imperfections and problems in their lives. We create through these platforms the ideal person we want to be wether we are doing it to impress someone or to feel better about our lives we are lying to ourselves and sometimes we don’t even realise its happening, so before you procrastinate or just need something to out of boredom think about how you’ll feel about yourself after then you might want to rethink that choice and do another activity like read a book.
Many younger celebrities are commonly know for being excessive shares on social media posting glamorous, perfect images on places like Instagram attracting millions of likes. But more often than not these images are heavily edited disguising all the imperfection we “normal” people have. So when people especially teenagers spend hours a day looking at these attractive images they compare their own appearance to those altered images therefore exactly like my friend Steve thinking they are not good enough leading to depression and eating disorders.
Note: This does not mean that social media causes these problems, its a great place to share thoughts, memories and connect with the world, its just the content posted there and peoples views and opinions on them turn social media into a toxic mirror. Many other factors also contribute to these problems including friends but social media plays a powerful role in shaping body problems. Although this is a very harmful issue it does not affect everyone in the same way.
Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all deliver the tools that allow anyone to earn approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others with the most vulnerable users being the ones we’ve all seen, the obsessive, on their phones 24/7 posting selfies and commenting on literally everything, these people feel anxious when not connected feeling as if they are missing out. But its not just these platforms that can change the way we see others its free apps that with just a click of a button or a swipe up or down can cover up pimples, whiten teeth, look thinner all becoming hotter, this provides an illusion almost like a Halloween mask. Teenagers take in digitally altered images with a critical eye, which is harmful, when social media is highly visual and interactive being their main way of communicating.
“If I could, my body would look different, but I can choose which picture shows my best side”
I think it affects teenagers subconsciously just seeing how many likes they get, even I feel that way like when posing a picture that I’m proud of I feel a sense of accomplishment and popularity when I get over a hundred likes.
Social media is often blamed for portraying an unrealistic body image that causes people to question their looks and lose self confidence in themselves, becoming increasingly self conscious of even the smallest of things such as the shape of their eye brows. Which if being a teenager weren’t stressful enough we now have to be camera ready trying to look perfect while at the same time feeling constant anxiety.
Even kids are being exposed to constant images of bikini bodies, six pack abs and its not just celebrities pushing idealised images of human perfection its your friends posting pictures for the whole world to comment on. Before the Internet you had to go to the shops to find a magazine with celebrity bodies but now anyone can spend hours fixating on Instagram feeds filled with nonstop images of lies.
Social media platforms hurt the most as teenagers are now having their bodies judged online as well as in person causing them to become trapped, they receive comments that no one would ever say to their faces. Teenagers are seeing the world through an unhealthy filter, creating a fake self where fewer clothes equal popularity. I’m really bothered by the most beautiful teen contests, as they are all about liking the girl who’s the hottest. You have to over sexualise yourself to get the most attention but if you read all the comments of these images the ones posted by men are so derogatory and objectifying.
Social media is a wonderful way to connect with others, share experiences, opinions and express ideas but it can have a dark side for body image which requires critical and thoughtful way to counteract it, we all use social media but when something goes wrong we need guidance on how to react to it such as; parents teaching their young kids to brush of negative comments and encourage them to use social media positively, creatively and responsibly.