How Does Social Media Affect Your Body Image?

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become a huge part of most teens’ lives. But do they help or hurt our self-esteem and body image? We asked. You answered.  

A recent CNN article explored how we are now exposed to more and more images of unattainable beauty, thanks to social networking: “Before social networks, we mostly had images of impossibly perfect celebrities. We would pass these images on billboards, watch them on TV, flip through them in magazines, but we weren't sitting around staring at them for hours every day.”

And it’s not just the exposure to these images that is damaging. It’s our interaction with them—the pressure to have the perfect profile pics, the comparisons we make, and the dangers of the constant scrutiny of our own and others’ bodies. Here’s what teens had to say about how social networking sites impact the way they feel about themselves.
 

What it takes to be "liked"
"People get positive attention in the world by losing weight. And you can do it to an even greater extent on Facebook.” --Anika, 18

"It's only the 'standard beauty' who gets the 'likes' I feel like to be the hot girl, you have to be like that, or wear your shirt too low and your skirt too high." --Kirby, 18

"I am really bothered by the 'Most Beautiful Teen Contest.’ It's just about liking the girl who's the hottest. To get positive attention on via Facebook, you have to over-sexualize yourself. And if you read the comments that go with the picture - the ones by men are so derogatory and so objectifying." --Vanessa, 17

"The less clothes you have on, the more popular you are.” –-Dayton, 17

"It's important to think about the sexualization of things. People post sexual pictures of themselves and objectify themselves.” --Gracie, 17

 

Fantasy, reality, and painful comparisons
“When looking at images of girls in a magazine almost all us know that they are altered electronically to appear perfect. When it comes to social media such as Facebook, most believe that they are looking at raw pictures, or ‘real girls.’ Whether this is true or not, they are ultimately used as a standard of comparison. --Mary

"People create a fake self." --Daniela, 18

"When I look at other people's photo albums, the comparing is automatic. I end up feeling like crap. I went to Photoshop a picture of myself on Facebook. I was changing a lot of things, then I saw the picture and I stopped myself, thinking, 'this is not who I am.  I want to be who I am.' "  --Kirby

“I think that social media platforms hurt because young people are now having their bodies judged online in addition to being judged in person, which causes them to feel trapped.” --Jen, 17

 

The consequences of online bodysnarking
“I know a ten year old girl who stopped eating after reading comments online that people had made about a picture of teen star Demi Lovato. Things like comments or tweets may seem simple, but they can really impact girls in a negative way by causing them to have unrealistic expectations about what thin is. I've seen that and experienced that.” --Jen

"People also say things they'd never say to your face. It's like Facebook gives them a screen that totally blocks out their emotions...they don't have to see how I'd react when they same something negative about me. We are relying on judgments from people we'll never meet to determine our worth.” --Anika

 

Online communities can be part of the problem or part of the solution
"[Tumblr] lets us post pictures of people we wish we were.  All of the Thinspo sites are so disturbing." --Gracie

“The whole “Pro-Ana” community scares me, and I have written numerous emails to website servers asking if they could take down a site that I felt was dangerous. On the other hand, I have utilized pro-recovery sites to get me through some rough days. These sites offer hope, give inspiring quotes, and create a warm and supportive environment. The bottom line is the internet is powerful and it can easily be used to seek recovery, or to revert in the other direction." --Mary

 

Thanks to Mary of the Mary Streech Project, Jen Rubino of Cards for Hospitalized Kids, and teens from the Boulder Youth Body Alliance for participating in our virtual roundtable!

 

What's your take? Share in the comments!

 

Related:

Stamp Out Bodysnarking!

"Am I Ugly?" Teens Talk Back
 

Image: watcharakun / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

cmysko's picture

Comments

jill.turpin's picture

Its so annoying when your on facebook and you see girls you know and hang out with but their pictures are so different then in real life! I just wish we could all love ourselves for who we are. The media isn't helping send the message that being you is cool and having NO FAT isn't. A girl with curves is how it should be. You shouldn't be able to wrap your hand around your wrist and be able to have all your fingers touch.~Jill
mozilla's picture

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rheasons's picture

"People create a fake self." --Daniela, 18 This comment is a bit true to some people but not everyone. Sometimes I feel like teenagers are trying to be someone just to attract attentions of other users.
rheasons's picture

Being you and showing your real capacities and abilities are too important. You're just fooling yourself, try to be someone who you don't. Teens must learn how to be proud of their selves. 

apolsasam's picture

Well, I use social almost everyday. I didn't know a lot of people are affected by their body image with social media. This is truly a good read for me. I just hope that these people would dwell more with themselves and love their bodies.

apolsasam's picture

Well, I use social almost everyday. I didn't know a lot of people are affected by their body image with social media. This is truly a good read for me. I just hope that these people would dwell more with themselves and love their bodies.
loveandhope123's picture

It depends on how you react to each situation, because all circumstance in life depends on the way you handle them. - Feed the Children
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Honestly, I think the problem with social platforms like Facebook is, is that it's much more easier for people to overcome their insecurities and post just about anything.. Interesting article, thanks for posting!

tiredy's picture

Nice article! We know that social media sites have become a huge part of most teens’ lives. But we know using these social media like facebook, twitter and etc. has always a limitation. Either could help or hurt. Social media also a great advantage not only in communication but we can also gain information's and ideas on it. But it could also bring disadvantages to the teen's most especially in our generation today. I'm looking forward to peer more post like this.
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