One area of concern relates to social media and body image. Struggles with body image have been a concern since before social media existed. However, the invention of social media often puts insecurities at the forefront. While we cannot eliminate the dangers of social media, it is possible to use social media intentionally without harming your body image.
How Social Media Affects Body Image
To be intentional about using social media to improve body image, we must first understand how it affects us in this area. Social media is inundated with seemingly perfect people sharing their perfect lives. It is easy to scroll for hours only seeing an idealized, filtered version of what people share. Repeated exposure to this can create a false narrative that what you see on social media represents what everyone is like and what they have.
While we know it is not real, we keep seeing these idealized versions of people and begin to compare ourselves to them. This is especially true with body image concerns like size, weight, height, and looks.
By viewing seemingly “perfect” bodies, we are training our brains to think that is what we are supposed to be. However, what we are seeing is often not even real. Thus, we set ourselves up for disappointment and failure to measure up to the images we look at for hours each day.
Often people have two opinions about how to navigate this. The first is that this doesn’t matter because they don’t believe social media affects them. The second is that all social media is bad and should be avoided. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle.
Every person is different and needs to spend time thinking about the role of social media in their lives. Whatever you decide, it is essential that you consider its impact on you and how you can make it better.
Why It Matters
Talking about social media and body image may seem unimportant, especially with all the things going on in the world. But how we spend our time, what we think about, and how we see ourselves is important.
Philippians 4:8 CSB reminds us how important it is to look at and dwell on things that are good for us: “Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things.”
Beyond that, Jesus shared about the importance of the eye. “‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light.’” (Matthew 6:22, CSB) This isn’t about the physical health of your eye, but the importance of what you watch and what you see for your overall health. When we see things that are healthy for us, it fills us with light.
How to Make the Most of Social Media
How do we make sure that the social media we consume is filling us with light, especially when it comes to body image?
The first thing we can do is be wise about what we consume with our eyes. Overall, you have control over what you see on social media based on your follows, likes and habits. Make sure that you are following and liking accounts and images that promote a healthy body image for you.
When you see these images, you want them to be things that fit into the guideline from Philippians: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, full of moral excellence, and praiseworthy.When you choose things that fit into this framework, they will be healthy for the eyes, filling you with light instead of causing more struggle with your body image. This can mean unfollowing good accounts simply because they lead you to compare yourself or feel bad about your body. Choosing wisely can also look like avoiding the platform’s suggested or “for you” feed and only viewing the things you specifically choose to follow.
Whatever you need to do to make wise choices will help you as you view social media.
We hear it again and again. Social media is bad. We consume too much. It is causing major problems in our lives, and even our physiological makeup. Still, it is easy to find ourselves mindless scrolling for hours. How can we prevent this negative spiral?
If you decide that social media is going to be part of your life, setting boundaries is essential to your wellbeing. These boundaries look different for everyone. However, they all serve the same purpose: to prevent social media from being out of control in our lives.
Boundaries with social media often take on the form of limiting how much time you spend on a platform. Technology today makes it easier than ever with settings on many devices that allow you to set time and day limits so the app automatically closes after the allocated time.
Other boundaries can include taking breaks from social media. One great way to limit use is to delete the app from your device for predetermined periods. Taking weekends off or even one day per week off can make a big difference in how much you consume. Also, consider taking longer chunks of time such as a full week so you can have healthy boundaries with social media.
Setting boundaries helps your social media and body image issues by giving you breaks from the influx of potentially challenging visuals, and can help grow confidence over time.
Evaluate Your Feelings
During your planned social media times, think about how you feel when you see certain things. Does your social media time make you feel excited and energized? Do you feel hopeless or defeated? Does what you are seeing support God’s truths about who you are?Taking the time to evaluate how you feel will help you determine if the choices you made and the boundaries you set up are working effectively.
If you made your choices and set your boundaries, yet still feel ugly, fat, hopeless, or depressed, that is a signal that something probably isn’t working.
If you made your choices and set your boundaries and feel content, neutral, inspired, or encouraged, that signals that you are using social media in a way that supports a healthier mindset and body image.
Pay attention to how you feel when you view social media and for a window of time following. These feelings are good indicators to help you make choices that are healthy and helpful for you.
This is the most important step in the whole process. You have to be willing to consider your choices, boundaries, and feelings to make any necessary adjustments to how you use social media. If you don’t do this step, the other three steps don’t matter.
For a few people, they will be spot on and no adjustments will be needed. But most of us will require some tweaking of our plan. This doesn’t mean you did it wrong. It simply means you are learning how to use social media in a way that supports a healthy body image for you.
When you make adjustments, you may find that things need to be more drastic than you thought. Maybe you need stricter boundaries or maybe you need to overhaul what you look at. Sometimes it may even mean you need to eliminate social media for a time. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is helping you have a positive body image and healthy mindset.
How to Develop a Healthy Body Image Mindset
If you need help improving your body image or setting healthy guidelines for social media, we have counselors who can help. Reach out today to connect to someone who can help you develop a healthy mindset about your body image and social media.
“Phone Users”, Courtesy of Camilo Jimenez, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “iPhone”, Courtesy of Jeremy Bezanger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hold the Light,” courtesy of Josh Boot, unsplash.com, CC0 License “Sitting on a Swing”, Courtesy of Camilo Contreras, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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