Social media has had a significant impact on the way people communicate and engage with each other. Individuals can engage by posting a picture, sending a tweet, or updating their status. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and WeChat have had a strong influence on how people relate with food and their image. Many are afraid of eating some foods because they fear they will gain weight. That has seen the emergence of various types of eating disorders.
If you spend more time on these platforms, you are more likely to develop an eating disorder than when you don’t. That is because social media tends to portray the ideal physical perfection one should have. It always reminds users that a thin and able body is more desirable and that any other body type has less value. But how does social media use affect body image?
- Fuels individuals to start disordered eating patterns
Social media platforms have many ads and images that expose users to diet talks, weight and fat loss programs, body shaming, and feminine beauty ideal. When a young person looks at the ads and thousands of images on their timelines, they use them as their personal benchmarks. That makes it difficult for them to differentiate between what is real and what celebrities perceive as real.
If a person with a negative image of their body comes across these ads, they will look for ways of feeling in control and accepted. The intense desire to try and achieve what is arguably an impossible standard fuel an eating disorder.
- Makes individuals compare themselves with others
The entire structure of social media platforms bends towards comparison. In other words, users sometimes judge themselves against the happiness and successes of others. For a person who is on the edge of an eating disorder, the comparison can be toxic to them. That is because they will start comparing their body image to the one that they saw on Instagram or Facebook.
When people compare themselves with others, it can impact the way they value themselves. A person will feel worse because of their appearance after looking at social media images of others they perceive more attractive than them. That can lead a vulnerable individual to excessive exercises, stringent dieting, and eating disorders.
- Triggers people to engage in destructive behavior
Social media can trigger individuals in recovery to resume their disordered eating behaviors. Most of the triggers usually come when people like celebrities and sports personalities post about their workout or exercise routines, weight loss, and dieting.
Some Instagram and Snapchat photos show body sizes that generally appear unrealistic but marketed to show they are the most valuable. For example, a before and after weight loss image can trigger a person to have the desire to lose weight through any means possible.
In essence, eating disorders are sometimes as a result of various factors that influence individuals to engage in poor eating habits. Biological, familial, psychological, and socio-cultural factors (including the media) all influence the development and maintenance of eating disorders. Higher Instagram usage can increase the chances of a person developing orthorexia Nervosa symptoms. That highlights the impact of social media on the psychological wellbeing of individuals.