Social media and body image: How to protect yourself

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Social media influence on body image
Photo by mikoto.raw from Pexels

This post is also available in: French Chinese (Simplified)

Let’s talk about social media influence on body image. It’s no secret that over the last decade social media has begun dominating our daily lives. From checking in with friends to sharing images of our days out. But, looking at carefully curated lives on peoples’ feeds is having a massive impact on users, and not always a great one. Let’s look at the relationship between social media and body image.

What is the social media influence on body image?

Go onto any of the popular social platforms and you’re likely to see a consistent mix of photos of perfect bodies, hotel-inspired interiors, and jet-setting lifestyles. This constant bombardment of the “perfect life” is having a devastating impact on the self-worth of many people.

The ongoing pandemic isn’t helping, either. During lockdown internet usage sky-rocketed, with adults spending on average four hours a day online. That includes spending time on social platforms like TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram.

But there are some simple ways to protect yourself from the darker side of social media.

Unfollow people

The easiest way to limit exposure to accounts that you’re finding damaging to your mental well-being is to unfollow them. Makes sense, right? Also, unfollow any hashtags that show similar feeds.

Why? The way the algorithm works, it learns which accounts you are most likely to interact with and shows you similar images and articles. By unfollowing and not engaging with these accounts, the algorithm will change to adapt to who you do engage with moving forward. It is machine learning.

Social media and body image: Follow inspiring accounts

From Stephanie Yeboah to Alex Light, there are literally thousands of inspiring accounts to follow on social media. Then you can highlight the difference between Instagram and reality, making sure you keep in mind that not everything you see is “real.”

There are touched-up photos, and likely the selfie that a social media influencer posts online is one that they took them many times before they got the published one. The pic likely has at least one filter on it too.

Being mindful in this way helps prevent the traps many are falling into these days. You know where I’m going: Comparing yourself to others and feeling like you don’t match up to them.

Do a reality check on social media influence on body image

Remember that posts are highly-edited and bodies have been smoothed, slimmed down, and filtered into “perfect” photos. Those images aren’t good for us – They knock down our confidence as girls by being unrealistic. That damaging impact stays with us as women, unless we take a reality check and practice the other suggestions here.

To give your self-esteem a boost, and your Instagram a reality check, choose to follow people who inspire you. That way, you take better care of your mental well-being. These account ask you to embrace who you are, rather than trying to reach an unattainable perfection.

Take a time-out

Are you’re spending more and more time online, obsessing over other peoples’ feeds, and feeling inadequate about yourself? If so, it’s time to take a step back.

Not just for an hour either, although that is a good start. Consider taking a break from social media.

Whether you delete the app completely or limit the amount of time you spend on the app daily, this change of pace can be good for your mind. You’ll likely find that having that time away from constant comparisons will have a positive impact on how you feel about yourself.

It can also affect how you view others, as well as your overall mood. When your thoughts about yourself are kinder, then you will be more likely to smile and be in a positive mindset.

Seek professional help

If you are struggling with your self-image, and it’s something you’ve been battling for a long time, it’s worth seeking professional help, from doctors to councillors. While cosmetic surgery is not something to take lightly, it might be something to look into if you have been unhappy with a part of your body for some time.

For many women, rhinoplasty is the most common procedure and can often improve how they feel about themselves. Make sure, though, that you haven’t been influenced by social media ideals to get this procedure or another one. You can see by now the harmful ways of social media affecting body image

If you are unhappy with your appearance because of social pressures or unrealistic comparisons, then surgery will not improve the situation. Speak honestly with a cosmetic surgeon about the potential procedure and its implications.

Final words on social media and body image

By taking a step back from Instagram and other social platforms, you can start to get a better view of yourself without filters, re-touching, and other methods of seeking perfection. As a last few words, I encourage you to try to change how you look at imperfections. Rather than seeing them as unsightly and something to hide, try looking at them as making you unique and special instead.

This post is also available in: French Chinese (Simplified)

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