When you’re scrolling through social media it’s hard to miss all the “perfect” looking profiles. Flawless people living lavish lifestyles vie for attention on everyone’s explore page, and maybe sometimes it’s hard not to feel lame.
But consider this: how much time and effort went behind each post? How many photo editing apps were used? How many selfies were taken before that perfect shot? We all know this happens. Why? Because if we’re being honest, at some point you probably spent an unhealthy amount of time and energy perfecting an Instagram post too.
Millennials, in particular, are obsessed with aesthetic perfection. According to a study published by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill, millennials are experiencing multidimensional perfectionism. Essentially measuring themselves up to their peers with unrealistically high standards.
A similar study entitled Keeping Up Appearances: Perfectionism and Perfectionistic Self-Presentation on Social Media addresses how social media affects this generation’s struggle for perfection. “The popularity of these [social media] platforms is, in part, explained by how they allow users to curate a perfect public image.”
Body image is how we perceive our body and how we “see” ourselves. Our self-image has a huge influence on our self-esteem. It becomes even harder to feel good when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to perfectly photoshopped images on social media.
Here are the stats:
Due to the obsessive need to appear perfect on social media, people tend to exclusively post attractive images of themselves. This results in an idealized conceptualization of body shapes.
A study has found out that teenage girls who used Facebook were more concerned with monitoring body appearance, idealizing thinness, and pursuing thinness than teenage girls who did not use Facebook. Another study has also discovered that interacting with photos (liking, commenting and sharing) has a link to weight dissatisfaction and self-objectification.
“Social media may have a stronger impact on children’s body image than traditional media. Messages and images are more targeted: if the message comes from a friend, it is perceived as more meaningful and credible,” said Dina Borzekowski, a professor at Johns Hopkins school of public health.
It turns out that having a negative body image doesn’t only affect self-esteem but it also has adverse effects on physical health. Individuals, particularly young girls who are dissatisfied with their body, are more likely to skip meals putting their health at risk.
Research has also revealed that teenagers with a negative body image are more likely to be depressed, anxious, and suicidal compared to those who are happy with their appearance, even those who have psychiatric illnesses. “These findings underscore just how central feelings about one’s appearance tend to be in the world of teenagers and how impairing these concerns can be,” says lead author, Jennifer Dyl, Ph.D.
Instagram is one of the most popular and the largest social network having over 1 billion returning monthly users as of June 2018.
According to a recent survey titled the #StatusOfMind involving almost 1,500 teens and young adults, Instagram is the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing. The platform was associated with alarming levels of anxiety, bullying, and FOMO (fear of missing out). One surveyee even wrote, “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look perfect.”
Snapchat is a close contender as the second worst social media network affecting mental health, followed by Facebook rounding out third. These are primarily visual platforms and it appears that images are the cause feeling inadequate and stirring up anxiety in young people. The #StatusOfMind report states, “seeing friends constantly on holiday or enjoying nights out can make young people feel like they are missing out while others enjoy life. These feelings can promote a ‘compare and despair’ attitude.”
Learning to love yourself is hard to do especially if you grew up looking different than what is featured by mainstream media. We must remember that posts on social media are not always what they seem. No one is perfect! Even the ostensibly flawless models that you see put in a lot of work and digital editing to get to their finished photo.
Join the campaign for body positivity by participating in discussions, sharing messages about mental health, and spreading content that promotes positive self-esteem.