Proud2Bme | 4 Social Media Tags to Avoid in 2016

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4 Social Media Tags to Avoid in 2016

By Jamie Granskie-- With social media, people can express themselves creatively, sharing things ranging from personal beauty and fashion choices to photos with friends and family. Social media is often a positive means of self-expression and can bring together people who share common interests.

As health and fitness activities and attitudes are often significant aspects of people’s lives, they are frequently shared via social media. It becomes problematic when social media posts on health and fitness come with hidden body-shaming messages attached.

Body-shaming happens when messages encourage negative thoughts about one’s physical appearance via direct or indirect comments or by social comparison. Social comparison is the type of body-shaming that occurs most often in social media contexts. Using platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, people share images, regimens or beliefs related to food and fitness with one another. That kind of sharing is sometimes harmless and can even be healthy, but it becomes problematic when it becomes a catalyst for body-shaming.

While it is unreasonable to expect the removal of topics related to food, fitness and general wellness from social media, it is important to be informed observers and participants in such sharing. The first step to creating a healthier, wellness-related sharing environment on social media is to recognize and eliminate certain markers of body shaming from social media posts.

As we enter 2016, here are the body-shaming social media tags to leave behind:

#bodygoals

This message, commonly found in the form of a hashtag, can be found scattered throughout social media. It is often used as a compliment to a friend or alongside a photo of a celebrity who inspires the user’s physical goals. The problem with #bodygoals is not that someone has body-related goals, but that they may place more emphasis on goals related to physical appearance than on other, more fundamental goals, such as self-care practices and appropriate nutrition. This creates a space in which destructive thought and behavior patterns can arise.

Furthermore, every person’s body is unique; looking to the media or even one’s peers as visual guides for body goals can be dangerous. “Healthy” looks different on everyone. In the context of the toxic media messages in our environment, stacking people’s different versions of health against the Western female body ideal creates an even greater danger of skewed body goals.

#eatclean

The “clean eating” movement is a food fad that has become very popular. Clean eating promotes a diet made up of certain foods deemed “clean,” and encourages people to avoid foods that fall outside of this clean category.

For many followers of clean eating, it encourages a positive shift toward good health; however, for others, it becomes an unhealthy obsession. The clean/dirty dichotomy advertised in the clean eating lifestyle mirrors one of the common symptoms of eating disorders, with sufferers exhibiting a high degree of selectivity in food choices, and feeling unclean after deviating from those foods.

Given this parallel between the clean eating belief system and eating disorders symptomology, it is unsurprising that adhering to the narrow food boundaries of a clean eating lifestyle can encourage unhealthy, restrictive tendencies, disordered eating and subclinical eating disorders (which have recently been found to affect 1 in 20 women). These dangerous by-products of the phrase “clean eating” warrant its removal from our vocabulary in 2016.

#fitspiration

“Fitspiration,” which is a play on the word inspiration, is intended to motivate women and men to achieve their health and fitness goals. However, ‘fitspiration’ photos typically feature extremely lean fitness models. People are encouraged to compare themselves to an unrealistic ideal, prompting a response of “I do not look like that, therefore I am not good enough.”

This response, which elicits negative feelings about one’s body, is harmful in and of itself. It is especially harmful when it proves to be an effective motivation strategy—which it often does. The negative self-esteem that results from comparing one’s body to the unreasonable “body goals” exemplified by the fitness models in the photos can be a destructive means of fitness inspiration. By encouraging negative self-esteem and providing “inspiration” to pursue unattainable, appearance-based physical standards, #fitspiration qualifies for removal from our social media vocabulary in 2016.

#strongnotskinny

This one may come as a surprise, as you might be thinking it is positive to encourage women to pursue physical strength as opposed to thinness. And, to an extent, it is true that this kind of encouragement promotes healthy physical choices. Strength training and wellness initiatives—with the goal of cultivating strong, bone-supporting muscles and personal empowerment—can be immensely beneficial.

The problem is that every person’s body is different. Much like there is a population of women who naturally appear curvy or muscular, there is a population of women who are naturally thin. Given the normal differences that exist among body types, it is unconstructive and problematic to cast one body type against another. Casting a strong, athletic build as more desirable or healthy than a naturally-thin build is another form of body shaming. Even though it’s a well-meaning attempt to push back against shaming women into one slender body type, it ends up shaming those who are naturally thin.

Avoiding body shaming on social media is tricky because it’s often unclear what is or is not harmful. #bodygoals, #eatclean, #fitspiration and #strongnotskinny—although not obviously harmful—carry with them some potential dangers and should be left out of social media posts. But what about all the other non-obviously harmful social media communications?

One useful rule of thumb that can help encourage positive health and wellness sharing on social media is to keep posts about self-expression, not comparison. Consider individuals or groups who might be negatively impacted by certain social media sharing, and ask how your post would affect them.

Staying positive on social media is not always a clearly defined task. Words and phrases enter our vocabulary, and we don’t even recognize their potential harm. Communicating with peers about potentially harmful components of sharing can help cultivate an aware and informed social media atmosphere. Creating an inclusive and healthy environment that cultivates self-expression requires a great deal of vigilance; however, it is a worthwhile step towards body positivity.

About the blogger: Jamie Granskie is a senior at Hamilton College, pursuing a psychology and sociology double major. She hopes to focus her career on eating disorders through research and work with individuals. She likes challenging gender norms, dancing and meeting people who can match her level of enthusiasm. She often forgets how headphones work and finds herself audibly singing along to wildly inappropriate rap songs in public.

For more on body positivity, check out:

Taking Care of Yourself While Caring for Others

Tips for Fostering Body Positivity in Our Communities

Tinder Body-Shamers: Just Don't

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