Body image isn’t often a comfortable topic for me. When I go on to Instagram I am instantly bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards. This is partly due to the photo filters available for us all to use that drastically change our appearance. When I think about my own photos, I realise that I don’t post any of myself without a filter. I no longer like the way I look without a filter. This is something I am working on, but it makes me worry about the generations following mine. They don’t know a world without photo filters. With the technology we have today, filters can be so realistic (see below).
Our camera phones have filters that, once turned on, are applied automatically if we don’t turn them off. They are often called names like “beautification”. They smooth our skin, change our skin tone, change our jawline and change the size or shape of our eyes. This is before we enter an app that offers its own filters. This can be so damaging. I didn’t realise that when I was looking into the selfie mode of my camera these filters were already applied. Admittedly, I was a little gutted when I turned it off. Is that really what I look like? Yes, it is. And that’s not a bad thing.
Podcast On Body Image
I got some amazing bloggers to speak about their experiences and opinions on how social media can affect our body image.
Corinne On Her Postpartum Weight Loss Journey
Corinne from https://skinnedcartree.com/ talked about her experience with the pressure to lose weight postpartum.
I had a baby last November, this resulted in a three and a half stone weight gain. For the first few weeks, I stayed in my newborn bubble, ate what I wanted and what was easy during those blurry few weeks. It wasn’t until I embarked on my postpartum weight loss journey when my baby was 12 weeks old I started to find myself comparing myself to others on Instagram. It’s always felt natural to me to want to engage with those similar to life stages to me, so when I wanted to lose weight I went on the search for other Mum’s on their weight loss journey. I was intending to find motivation but instead found comparison. Some women able to run 10k when I struggled to run a mile, others already at their pre-pregnancy weight and looking fresh and on top of the world. Then there’s the DM’s. Everyone seems to be a coach or has a program they want you to join to help you lose weight. It’s all about selling some.
I still have a long way to go and you can only yell yourself ‘everyone is on their own journey’ so many times. There are many women that share their postpartum journey in a realistic way, sadly it’s those that seem to bounce back quickly and look amazing that get all the likes and end up on the explore page. I think it’s important when we look to Instagram for motivation, we look to support and engage a variety of accounts, not just those that have seemed to recovered quickly from birth and jumped straight back into the gym.
That’s not the reality for most, but as always, is those few extreme examples that get all the attention. I’ve found encouraging other women who are similar to me is even more motivating than looking at photos of women I will never look like.
Lynn On How Things Are Slowly Changing
Lynn from www.lynnmumbingmejia.com discusses how we’re all different.
We get so wrapped up in our social media channels that we forget each of us is different but we all contribute to a more interesting society. Although we’ve still got a long way to go, I’m so happy to see that society is becoming more inclusive of all body types. Together, we must continue to be vocal about body positivity and inclusivity. The more we promote loving the bodies we have, the more people will be comfortable in sharing experiences and awareness on social media!
Claudia On Social Media’s Effects On Body Image
Claudia from https://dowhatyoulove2015.wordpress.com/ discusses what we as a society can do to combat the effects social media has on body image.
Social media’s effects on body image are undeniable. With the advent of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat etc and its countless filters, users are thrown into a competitive, unrealistic portrayal of themselves to the outside world, made worse by the imagery found in fashion magazines of thin, airbrushed models.
This wrinkle-free, pristine existence exists only in the minds of the purveyors of the fashion industry and social media is the vessel by which it navigates. It wreaks havoc on those whose self-esteem is tied to their own body image and who believe that they are never as “good-looking” as the next person. This perfection-seeking attitude can cause anxiety, depression or a downward spiral in self-worth.
What can we do as a society to combat this? While there is very little we can do about how others act or represent themselves on social media there are some steps you can take in how it affects you:
1 – Unfollow accounts that make you feel worthless, so as to avoid the temptation to live up to their “standards.”
2 – Take a break from social media. Easier said than done but it is guaranteed to improve your mood when you focus on things that are in your immediate environment especially if they bring you joy.
3 – Find like-minded “friends” who don’t seem to get caught up in the whole, filtered approach to social media popularity. Focus on common interests. You’d be surprised who you can find online if you carefully take the time to “do your homework” before jumping on the “follow me/follow you” bandwagon.
Juliet Discusses The Body Positive Movement
Juliet from https://www.notcapulet.co.uk/ gives a good insight on the body positive movement.
I think social media absolutely can impact someone’s perception of body image. Growing up, surrounded by the “Size 0” obsession and slender waif-like girls on Tumblr, my self worth was tightly intertwined with my dress size – I was so happy when I fit into a size 8, which wasn’t a natural or even healthy size for me. The bodily proportions you see on social media nowadays are a far cry from what I used to strive for. Now I’m older, I feel that I’m less impressionable and therefore less affected by what I see on social media, but it’s difficult to ignore and, on the days I’m feeling less than attractive, it’s difficult to be kind to myself.
In terms of tackling this influence, I felt hopeful when I discovered the body positive movement, but this hope soon turned sour for me personally. I align with their belief that every body is worthy of respect but, being midsize, I don’t feel as included. It’s like I’m too big for the skinny girls and too small for the fat girls. I think there needs to be more focus on appreciating bodies for what they can do and achieve, however they look, and less accolade given to appearance in general. Being told how pretty you are is always lovely, but much better is being told you’re kind, funny, talented, hardworking, clever, etc.
Gigi Lee On How Social Media Has Changed Our Lives
Gigi Lee from https://www.guidancebygigi.com/blog on how social media now showcases a wider range of people compared to the past.
Most, if not all of us, can agree that social media has radically changed how we live our lives. “Keeping up with the Joneses” has evolved from magazines, radio, and television to a constant connection that bombards us from our little computers in our pockets. The endless scrolling and consumption has the potential to warp our perceptions into a muddled inability to differentiate reality from fantasy. This is especially true for young folks whose minds are still developing and struggling to find their place in their world.
However, in the past few years, I’ve noticed an uptick in trends, influencers, and pop culture figures stepping into a body and overall identity acceptance culture. One well known example is “Instagram vs reality” posts in which influencers share side by side photos of themselves with filters vs non filters. One study found that when a group of women were presented with a list of “Instagram vs reality” posts, they reported decreased levels of body dissatisfaction (Tiggemann M, Anderberg I, 2020).
I believe as the consumer demands have gone up, we are seeing more social media run by or including folks with a vast array of different body acceptance messages to be shared. Whether it’s living with a disability, fighting societal norms, showcasing different cultural lifestyles, etc. I’ve seen so many wonderful and diverse social media influencers that never existed back when facebook or twitter was in its infancy.
There will always be images and information online that is deceitful and unrealistic, as the internet is part of a capitalistic economy to sell ideas and images. However, I believe the best tools we have are:
- Don’t fall victim to algorithms. Social sites want to sell you unrealistic images, ideas, and products. Try to actively search for and consume media from body positive social accounts, influencers, and celebrities.
- Continue to educate our youth and peers that social media Is NOT reality. As with anything in life, it’s simply a tool that requires balance. The more our young people see differences and acceptance online, body acceptance will not only be accepted but Expected by society.
- Tiggemann M, Anderberg I. Social media is not real: The effect of ‘Instagram vs reality’ images on women’s social comparison and body image. New Media & Society. 2020;22(12):2183-2199. doi:10.1177/1461444819888720
Final Thoughts On How Social Media Can Affect Our Body Image
There is definitely a long way to go in tackling these issues. As with most issues of this nature, there is no “one size fits all” method to help. However, there are small changes happening all over the internet that are making a difference. I like the idea of focussing less on our appearance and more on our good traits. It doesn’t work for everyone though. It’s hard to be confident on the inside if we aren’t on the outside.
Take it one day at a time and if you need help please reach out to someone.
Places You Can Reach Out To
Young Minds – https://youngminds.org.uk/find-help/feelings-and-symptoms/body-image/ (there is a good list of places on their website)
Samaritans – https://www.samaritans.org/