Featured Posts

To top
8 Feb

The way to stop social media ruining your self-esteem

Social media platforms are failing us and protective laws is struggling to maintain up – so how are you going to look after yourself?

“She first began saying her face was asymmetrical. She tried to chop her mole off on the side of her nose to amend this. Her teeth had gaps, she hated this, she didn’t have perfect teeth like other people.”

Rachel* is the mother of 16-year-old Megan*, who has been in a specialist hospital for anorexia for ten months now. Rachel believes that her daughter’s use of social media platforms like TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram was answerable for her developing anorexia. “She thought she had certain syndromes, as when she felt something she would type it into Google. She typed in anorexia after which all of the algorithms kept sending her increasingly more stuff about anorexia. I believe that fear is generated in young minds from the things they’re shown on social media.”

Not only are Rachel’s suspicions concerning, but they’re also correct. Evidence leaked by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen in 2021 found that Instagram directed young users to eating disorder content, making them use the app more, while fuelling an increase of eating disorders in the method. 17 per cent of teenage girls said the app made their eating disorders worse.

One of these content is assessed as “legal but harmful” and is something that the UK government’s Online Safety Bill goals to deal with. In 2022, for the primary time ever, a coroner’s inquest ruled that social media platforms contributed to the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell. This monumental decision shone a light-weight on the insidious and immense impact that digital content has on our mental health, particularly on young and vulnerable people. Nevertheless, in December, the bill was watered down in calls to guard ‘free speech’, meaning that content referring to eating disorders wouldn’t should be removed, but would just have to be behind an age restriction.

It’s clear that the constant viewing and consumption of unrealistic digital content is a health risk, and one which social media platforms aren’t only failing to deal with, but whose algorithms are designed to bolster. A study conducted by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate found that once they arrange recent accounts with the age set to 13 years old, and briefly paused on videos about mental health, inside eight minutes, TikTok showed content related to eating disorders. Standard teen users were shown videos about body image every 39 seconds.

Within the social media age, our appearance has grow to be synonymous with our worth. Bodies are marketed, sold and consumed as commodities online, leaving our self-confidence depending on the abstract views and likes of today’s timeline. While the medium could be recent, the sweetness standards are age-old and end in feeds and FYPs that are Eurocentric, fatphobic and ableist. “People were posting edited pictures of me next to ‘IG baddies’ and mentioning what was improper with me,” says Erin, a 21-year-old student whose curvy figure made her the goal of bullying on social media. “This led to extreme body dysmorphia and a troubling relationship with food.”

The constant comparisons which are pushed on us by social media algorithms often manifest as internalised pressure, which becomes highly competitive. Collectively, the web sphere pits us against one another, with follower counts, likes and comments being constant digital reminders of how we’re ranked. For Kelsey, a 26-year-old from Hampshire, this constant source of negative comparison led to her developing an eating disorder, but praise from other people on social media would fuel this toxic cycle of restriction. “After I’d post pictures on Instagram people would comment things like ‘omg your waist is so small’. I’d feel such a way of feat, like I used to be one in all those girls that could possibly be envied,” she says. “But after I look back on those pictures now I feel sad for the girl who tried to never let herself eat.”

That social media platforms are failing us is evident to see, and protective laws is struggling to maintain up. This has meant that it’s been left to individuals to right the wrongs of social media platforms, creating secure spaces online to uplift one another and construct communities where young people feel accepted.

@paris.france.s #duet with @undefeatedshitposter2 almost waited till I could have higher lighting to make this video but then realized that might be hypocritical lol #feminism ♬ mitski drunk walk home live – THE undefeated shitposter

One person attempting to help us construct a healthy and accepting relationship with our bodies is Oli, also often called @wellwitholi, who struggled with anorexia for six years, before going through therapy and training as a private trainer. Now, she creates content that goals to assist other people unlearn the toxic body standards that permeate the digital world. “I began my platform because despite the body positivity movement originating from fat and Black people, unsurprisingly, online, this space has grow to be co-opted and it tends to be slim, white women who’re on the forefront of it,” she says. “Mental health is a large stigma still within the Black community and so I need to share my experiences to remind other Black people who they’re not alone.”

Luna is a recent app exclusively for teenagers, and was created as an antidote to the harmful content found on social media. Teenagers can submit questions anonymously, answered by Luna’s panel of experts made up of GPs, psychiatrists and therapists. “As teens use social platforms like TikTok as their primary search engine, they’re misdiagnosing themselves using inaccurate information, and following suggestions that are incredibly dangerous. Because of this we launched Luna, in order that teenagers can head to a spot where they (and their parents) can ensure that any advice they receive is medically-approved and expert-led,” says founder Jas Schembri.

In terms of practical motion that we will take to assist mitigate the negative effects of social media, Dr Mary McGill, media studies researcher and creator of The Visibility Trap, believes that taking a break can have transformative results. “Research shows that taking a break from social media might help us be more mindful of how we use these technologies. This break ought to be at the very least three weeks long, the length of time it takes to determine a recent habit,” she says.

Not only this, but being more conscious of the content we eat as being a type of consumption itself can change how we view the photographs we see online. “In terms of internalised beliefs, additionally it is value considering if we’re letting social media exacerbate our insecurities by accepting the world because it is presented to us by algorithms. These algorithms often employ the oldest trick within the advertiser’s playbook, flooding our eyeballs with aspirational, heavily edited imagery designed to separate consumers from their money,” she says. “Consuming social media more critically, saying ‘I’m not buying that’, and taking back our attention can all be empowering acts.”

*Names have been modified

Recommended Products

Beauty Tips
No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.