Social Media, Mental Health, & Eating Disorders

Monday, Sep 26  •  

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Social media has become an integral part of our lives. It allows us to stay connected with friends and family all over the world and provides a platform for us to share our thoughts and experiences. More than 70% of Americans engage on some type of social media platform, and it has become second nature to devote hours scrolling through networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and more.

Despite the many positive uses, the heavy consumption of social media can also have negative side effects on the mental and physical well-being of users.

Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

With the increase in social media use daily, it is important to explore how digital media consumption is having an impact on body image, self-esteem, and overall mental health. Because social media networking has changed the way people communicate and interact, there are many ways this can potentially impact how a person views themselves and others. 

A study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh found that social media use is linked to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and loneliness. The study surveyed over 1200 young adults between the ages of 19 and 32 and found that those who used social media more than 58 times per week were three times as likely to experience symptoms of depression.

Other potential side effects associated with social media include the risk of cyberbullying, less opportunity for meaningful social interactions and human connections, and low self-esteem.  It is important to be aware of these dangers and to take steps to protect yourself from them.

How Social Media Can Impact Body Image

One of the most significant ways social media can impact mental health is through its effect on body image. Because social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are so visual, they give users a constant stream of images to compare themselves to. A study done by the National Eating Disorders Association found that social media use is linked to increased feelings of body dissatisfaction, and can even trigger eating disorders in vulnerable individuals.

The constant exposure to images of perfectly-filtered, Photoshopped bodies can create an unrealistic standard of beauty that is difficult for anyone to live up to. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy and can cause people to develop negative body image. Social media also tends to foster comparison, which can further contribute to low self-esteem and body dissatisfaction.

Effects of Social Media on Eating Disorders

A person with an eating disorder may be triggered to engage in damaging behaviors if they are not being proactive about what they are consuming on social media platforms. Diet and exercise regimens are all over social media with photos to show that these regimens can work for some, at least through their representation on social media. Eating disorders often distort a sense of normalcy with eating and body image. Engaging in constant social media use can reinforce the idea that these behaviors or unrealistic body types are desirable.

Ultimately, using social media positively and beneficially is possible with proactive intent. There is an opportunity to use it for promoting body diversity, body acceptance, body appreciation, and body love. Fill your social media feeds with positive influences!

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