Dangerous Ground: The Pitfalls of Social Media and Body Image
Social media is one of the most marvelous inventions – the ability to connect with loved ones, message past classmates, and network with future employers. However, social media also has its downfalls and can have negative effects on things like body image. How often have you opened your social media platform and found yourself scrolling, even hours later?Do you compare yourself with influencers on Facebook and Instagram? How are your emotions after scrolling through your feed and liking and commenting on others’ posts?
Prolonged use of social media (scrolling and posting for hours on end every day) has been shown to correlate with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and stress. The more we compare ourselves and our bodies to others (and likely photoshopped versions of others), the more we become discontent with our bodies.
How social media can negatively affect body image.
When confronted with society’s ideal body images day after day, we can become ensconced with the belief that we must meet these expectations. This can have devastating effects on our lives and relationships. Most of the time, photos and reels on social media platforms have been edited or manipulated to produce a given result.
However, seeing these images plants a seed deep inside that we do not measure up. We are left feeling discontent and as far from joy as possible. This gives birth to low self-esteem and low self-worth. Top that with an obsession or addiction to social media, and depression can soon follow. Some people may go to extremes to reach the ideal body image.
The link between social media and eating disorders.
The ideal body image accepted by society may be impossible to attain for most men and women based on factors like genetics, features, lifestyle, diet, or physical training. Some people may choose to augment their bodies with plastic surgery options to get the desired look. Others develop eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or disordered eating.
Eating disorders can be fatal if not treated early. The rapid weight loss, starvation, purging, and physical effects of eating disorder behavior will eventually kill its victim. Yet, millions of people have turned to eating disorder behavior at least once in their lives. This is often in response to what society is showing on social media, magazines, television, and movies.
What we focus on is what we have in our hearts. Focusing on other people’s appearances is bound to steal our joy and happiness and leave us feeling empty and depressed. Is that really how we want to live our lives? Feeling as if we will never measure up?
The apostle Paul asked the Corinthian church, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV) Our earthly bodies, although temporary, are to be honored and kept healthy so we can be ready to serve God when he asks.
How to restore a positive body image.
Are you feeling down after scrolling through Instagram? Did you catch yourself comparing your body to the body of a professional model, actor, or bodybuilder? Filters and techniques are often added to enhance (or detract from) features in a photo on social media. However, even knowing that, it can be challenging to separate what you see from the picture you have in your head of the way you want to be.
Having body goals is excellent and should be worked on from a healthy mindset. Let us help you get your mind back on track before focusing on making healthy physical changes.
Monitor your social media usage.
Prolonged use of social media can be a problem. Just as with most things in life, moderation is key. What can you focus on instead of spending hours numbingly checking on your posts and liking your friends’ pictures? Is there a book you wanted to read or a movie you wanted to watch? Is there a skill you want to learn to help you get a leg up at work?
Even better, when was the last time you spent quality face-to-face time with your family and friends? Set a timer for when you want to check your social media notifications and messages, but learn to monitor your time.
Take inventory of your thoughts.
Do you pay attention to your thoughts and emotions after spending time on social media platforms? Negative self-talk is just as damaging as verbal abuse from another person. This voice resides in your head.
Are your critical thoughts controlling your emotions and how you perceive yourself? Sometimes it can feel like you cannot shut out the intrusive thoughts.
The first step to gaining control is identifying and analyzing your thoughts. Trying to live up to some societal ideal about body image, appearance, status, or wealth will only lead to depression and anxiety.
God created you with intention. You are unique. “We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 HCSB) Take every negative thought captive and learn how to expose it for the lie that it is. The truth is that you are a daughter of God or a son of God – even when you do not feel like one.
Eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
Sometimes, the simpler things can make us feel better about ourselves. Eating healthy foods in the proper amounts will fuel your body to keep up with your responsibilities and lower your risk of deadly diseases and conditions.
Alcohol and sugar have been proven to exacerbate physical illnesses and mental conditions. Eat whole grains or sprouted grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats in balanced meals.
A nutritionist or weight loss expert can help you create meal plans that will work to energize your body, lower body fat, fuel your muscles, and clear away the brain fog. Focus on becoming healthy, not attaining a particular clothing size or ultimate physique. It is fine to have those latter goals, but they should never take the place of health.
Treat exercise as a benefit, not a punishment.
Although it can be challenging to find the motivation to exercise, you are blessed if you have an able body to move. Training your body should never be considered a punishment or a chore you must complete to negate a binge.
People with poor body image tend to visit one extreme or another. They may never work out, resulting in poor health and risk for obesity. Alternately, they may obsess over workouts and burning calories to achieve a specific size.
Train your body because you currently can. The endorphins after a good workout will help to raise your body confidence. Eventually, you will feel stronger and see a noticeable difference in the mirror.
Remember: You have no idea what other people are going through behind the scenes.
Do not allow the highlights, the filtered reels, and the photoshopped images to get into your head. Everyone is struggling with something. Even if an IG influencer has the physique you think you want, they face their own battles that they do not air on social media. Stay realistic. We often see others and want what they have, thinking it will make us happy. But gaining someone else’s dream is not what we are here to do.
Focus on what God has called you to do. Also, consider supporting companies and influencers who promote body positivity and diverse bodies instead of a culturally accepted version. Overcoming a poor body image and social media addiction is possible, but you may need help from a Christian counselor to get started. Reach out to us today.
Reaching out for help.
You do not have to cease using social media forever in order to feel confident about yourself or your life. If you still think that your view of your body has taken a hit after following the above tips about restoring a positive mindset and body image, contact us today. Our therapists specialize in positive body image, self-confidence, eating disorders, depression, and more. Reach out to us for a free assessment.
“Social Media”, Courtesy of Firmbee, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Social Media”, Courtesy of dole777, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mirror Image”, Courtesy of Caroline Veronez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Fuu J, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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