Due to school closures and social distancing guidelines, most young people are spending more time than ever on social media. It can be a great way to stay connected to family, friends and community.
We are social beings, wired for connection. We all need a sense of belonging. For most of us that means we need to continually expand, maintain and deepen our connections to people, pets, places, activities, possessions, philosophies, causes, spirituality, values and a sense of purpose throughout our lives.
Social media has a powerful influence in many people’s lives, especially how we think about ourselves, others and the world of others. It can help us grow our awareness and shift our perspective: to see and appreciate a lot about the world that we otherwise might not reflect on. It can help us embrace our common humanity and global identity/citizenship. It can help us honor and celebrate our own and others’ uniqueness.
Social media can have a life-affirming or troubling influence on our worldviews, as well as our view of ourselves. Social media can create a sense of unity or divisiveness; faith or suspicion; positive or negative judgments; understanding or discrimination; and clear or distorted thinking about the worth of all beings including ourselves. It has the potential to impact many areas of our lives, including a body-positive influence or it can promote unfavorable body image comparisons.
All types of media can advance unhealthy, unrealistically rigid and skewed ideas of beauty, such as unachievable ideals for thinness. The internet is full of Pro-Anorexia/Eating Disorder sites, applauding severe restriction of food intake, purging and excessive over-exercising. These sites encourage people to see their value through the eyes of an eating disorder, suggesting what matters most is their shape, weight and size.
A systematic review of 20 papers published in 2016 found that photo-based activities, like scrolling through Instagram or posting pictures of yourself, were particularly problematic when it came to negative thoughts about your body. A 2018 York University study showed that young women who actively engage with social media images of friends who they think are more attractive than themselves report feeling worse about their own appearance afterward. A 2015 study showed that while looking at photos of celebrities led to negative self-comparison, the most detrimental self-comparison leading to body image concerns was when viewing pictures of distant peers, or acquaintances.
Most of us do not give much thought to what we or our children are “consuming” via social media and what influence it has. There are so many questions to explore:
Aspen Family and Community Network Society has many programs and workers who can help you identify proper resources and who you might be able to reach out to if you are struggling with any of these issues. Please contact Aspen at 403-219-3477.
Liaison, Eating Disorder Community Support Homes
Aspen Family & Community Network