Proud2Bme | Proud2Bme Poll: 76% of Readers Compare Themselves to Images on Social Media "All the Time"

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Proud2Bme Poll: 76% of Readers Compare Themselves to Images on Social Media "All the Time"

By Kaitlin Irwin--Last month’s Proud2Bme poll results showed a dismal reality, one that needs to be discussed openly and honestly. The question was, “Have you ever compared your appearance to images on social media?” Out of 372 respondents, 76% of them responded with “Yes, all the time.” 21% of them said “Sometimes,” while just 4% said ‘No.” What can we take away from these results, and how can we use them to dig deeper and fight for change?

After doing some research, I found a few studies that focused on the phenomenon of social media and body image. Of particular interest were selfies and the way people filter them, both through actual filters or by picking and choosing the highlight reel of their lives. The selfie can be a dangerous social media tool. These photos can be used to help us create a new persona for ourselves—someone who is confident, beautiful, successful, etc. A study at the University of Strathclyde, Ohio University and University of Iowa conducted a survey of 881 college women in the United States. The researchers found a direct correlation between how much time a woman used Facebook and the frequency with which they compared their bodies to others’ bodies. Larger amounts of time spent on Facebook correlated with a more negative body image.

One of the researchers suggested that the photos we see on our friends’ social media profiles can affect our body image and self-esteem even more, because we can compare ourselves to someone we know personally. Still, with the plethora of filters and special effects that we have at our disposal, many times we end up making very unrealistic comparisons between real life and a filtered image. The research shows that greater exposure to these carefully selected selfies and social media profiles  may inspire comparison among women. The studies didn’t focus on men, but it would be interesting to see how the stats measure up for them.

NEDA said it perfectly on its website: “We live in a media-saturated world and do not control the message.” We need to keep fighting the ads and campaigns out there that are poisoning our body image and self-esteem. Take a look at the Proud2Bme poll results and surveys to understand how critical the mission is. Considering that the typical child or teen in the U.S. will spend 7.5 hours daily consuming various forms of media, I don’t think it’s outlandish to deem this a serious issue. Even children’s cartoons emphasize visually attractive protagonists.

I know that eating disorders, negative body image and low self-esteem are not the product of just one factor. Social media isn’t a problem, but our relationship with it is. I think it’s crucial that we educate young people (and everyone) on the role it plays in our lives. It’s not even just “being skinny” either. Commercial media tells us which clothes to wear and how to style our hair, which skin tone is the most beautiful and what to buy in order to be successful and likeable. While we can’t just stop consuming all forms of media, there has to be something more that we can do, and that is why I continue to fight and spread the word: we are enough, just as we are.

You don’t have to do anything super-duper to make a difference. It’s the little things that really bring the message home. So stop the “fat talk,” admire someone’s beauty without questioning your own and remember that health and beauty are not one-size-fits-all. It’s easy to tear others (and ourselves) down; try raising people up. Count your blessings, not your flaws. Work on being the best person you can be, without striving towards something unattainable. The truth is, we’re all imperfect—inside and out—and that is the beauty of our story as human beings.

About the blogger: Kaitlin Irwin is a recovered anorexic who spent her college years struggling to hide her illness. With lots of support, patience and an Intensive Outpatient Program, she embraced herself, flaws and all. In her free time, she enjoys exercise, cooking and art and can usually be found with a good book, a journal or her fiancé. She hopes to use her love of creative expression to spread positivity and love to others.

Also by Kaitlin:

The Problem with Glamour Magazine's Plus-Size Issue

6 Tips for Creating a Successful Petition on Campus

Mattel Should Take a Cue from Lammily’s Male Figures

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

This site was developed in partnership with Riverduinen and made possible by generous contributions from JPMorgan Chase, Globant, the University of Delaware, and The Hilda & Preston Davis Foundation.

Proud2Bme was first launched in the Netherlands by Riverduinen, a mental health organization that has licensed the concept to the National Eating Disorders Association. Unless otherwise noted, all original content on this site is copyright The National Eating Disorders Association. The Proud2Bme brand, logos, and trademarks are property of Rivierduinen.