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Social Media's instilling fear of ideal body image & it's side effects.

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

(The curation and accuracy of this content is at the discretion of the author)

In today's world, the usage of social media has become quite prominent. With the advent of new upcoming platforms like Instagram, Facebook, snapchat etc has changed the way we engage and communicate with one another, during the pandemic too, it was social media which acted as a solace which helped us communicate with friends and family, while social media can provide a space to connect with people it can also be a platform to unleash havoc and be tremendous source of stress, guilt and bring about feelings of inadequately for many Men and women. Though most of us are aware that social media only presents the best side of someone's life, we still regularly compare ourselves to the edited/ filtered versions of others. This comparison is troubling for multiple number of reasons, the primary one being the impact on an individual's mental state. Studies have shown that increased time spent comparing oneself to the idealized images on the internet can lead to several mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Seeing images of people, you know going to parties, hanging out with friends or going on a lavish vacation can possibly harm your self-image especially when you are stuck at home.

This may lead to a feeling of Fear of missing out also called as FOMO people who spend large amount of time on social media develop issues related to body images, seeing pictures of people's bodies can cause someone to compare themselves in unhealthy or unrealistic ways. Self-image is the biggest problem coming from regular and constant usage of social media and each of the other issues can relate back to its which takes a serious toll on the mental health.

A negative body image can also cause unrealistic expectations of how your body should look and can lead to unhealthy eating behavior and disordered eating. Studies have found a correlation between the time spent on social media and a negative body image. The correlation is especially true when participants scroll through appearance related content like celebrity accounts, accounts of fitness instructor or a model on Instagram. According to recent research, the pictures of fit people doing exercises, popularly known as the social media lingo, "fitspiration" tended to make young women more critical of their bodies. Social media is a significant factor in the body image development because it provides young people with the opportunity to be judged and make comparisons instantaneously. Approximately 5% percent of young adults on social media worry about posting or tagging them in unflattering pictures and many girls also revealed that their self-esteem is hampered when no one "likes ' the images posted by them. One research also suggests that social media may be taking the place of a traditional media in encouraging women's self-objectification, which is the degree to which one's self concept hinges on physical attractiveness. Social media can hurt your body image by constantly exposing yourself to the ideal body type, leading to constant comparison of yourself to unrealistic standards. Additionally, Photoshop apps are readily available to users providing them alter their body according to their preferences thus by setting up an unrealistic body image. People who have negative or distorted body image may often exhibit these signs –

  • Obsessive negative thoughts around physical appearance

  • Viewing oneself as unattractive or undesirable

  • Excessively focusing on a minor appearance flaw of the body

  • Avoiding social engagements

  • Constantly needing assurance from others

  • Constantly, obsessively grooming oneself

  • Going for cosmetic surgery to get the desired figure


Eating disorders are characterized by altered eating behavior that negatively impacts a person's physical and mental health. Some recent evidence suggested that there exists a strong link between eating disorder and social media use, particularly in the development and perpetuation of body image issues which partially influences the eating behavior of children and adolescents leading to an increase prevalence of eating disorders. According to the American psychology association women are at a higher risk for eating disorders, in an attempt to reach their idealized body shape ideal. Adolescents and young adults put too much focus on how they are perceived online and this makes them very conscious about body weight, body shape and calorie intake along with exercise. According to the study these are the core psychological factors influencing distorted eating behavior. A recent study has found that about 52% of girls and 45% of boys opt for skipping meals, heavy exercise and other behaviour associated with eating disorders. The risk of developing eating disorders can be predicted by the photo based social media activities of adolescent. There is evidence indicating that avoidance of posting photos on social media, photo investment, and photo manipulation are associated with a higher risk of eating disorders like Anorexia nervosa, Bulimia and Binge eating. Additionally, women are twice as likely to suffer from depression than men. Let's talk about these disorders and understand them in depth.

Anorexia nervosa or self-starvation disorder is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, and intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of weight. People with anorexia place a high value on controlling their weight and shape, using extreme efforts that tend to significantly interfere with their lives. People with Anorexia have a distorted body image and though they are constantly dieting and eat next to nothing they still think they are too fat. Other symptom of Anorexia includes Dizziness, hypotension, arrhythmia and Amenorrhea. Anorexia nervosa affects 9% of the worldwide population and an estimated 0.5% of adolescent girls and young women in especially western countries are affected by this disorder, which predominantly stems from the notion of deriving the ideal body image as seen on numerous social media pages endorsed by models and celebrities which imprints the minds of young girls.

One more prevalent eating disorder which is caused by the obsession of having a perfect body is Bulimia. In this kind of disorder, a person regularly goes on huge eating binges within a short span of time usually 2-3 hours and then may try to undo the high calorie intake by self-induced vomiting or purging, strict dieting, engaging in excessively vigorous exercise or taking laxatives. These episodes occur at least twice a week for at least three months. People with bulimia are obsessed with their weight and shape. They become overwhelmed with shame, self-contempt and depression over their eating habits. They have low self-esteem and a history of wide weight fluctuations, dieting or frequent exercise. Researchers believe this eating disorder may begin with dissatisfaction with body image and extreme concern with an individual's size and shape. Usually, people with bulimia have low self-esteem and fear of becoming overweight.

Eating disorders can lead an individual to isolate oneself from their friends and families because they may feel like they are not understood. They may find themselves spending more time on social media and falling deeper into a cycle of negative comparison, guilt and low self-worth and further eating disorder behaviour. One needs to understand that there might also be negative consequences on physical health.

Constantly using social media can have an impact on your body image and relationship with food, due to increased exposure to thin, flat and toned body types and particular diets. Many at times it might lead to starvation which in turn leads to malnutrition amongst the young girls. Malnutrition can cause our bodies to crave certain foods for energy and makes the body weak and agile. In addition to psychological symptoms, nutritional deficiencies can lead us to feeling exhausted dizzy and unable to concentrate. In many extreme cases, malnutrition can cause individuals to develop fragile bones, hair loss and more studies show that 88% of women compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with over half of them emphasising that comparison is unfavourable. Studies also show that 65% of men compare themselves to images they observe on social media, with 37% of them indicating that the comparison is unfavourable.

This is extremely problematic as this can eventually lead to lower self-esteem, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals along with an unbalanced diet which eventually contributes towards eating disorders.

Social media users often choose to share the best parts of their life with the world. We may begin to feel that we are not good enough compared to the people we see on Instagram. These social norms may impact on how an individual views his/her own body because humans have a general need to gain approval from other and avoid disapproval. As a result, they often confirm to the social norms related to appearance.

Nonetheless, social media can be a great tool for information and communication, but there should be some boundaries and strategies to follow if you want to protect yourself from falling into the trap of image distortion.

Here are some of the ways to help you achieve in doing so.

  • The first step would be to unfollow, hide or unlike pages and feeds that are triggering, food and body preoccupied or which propel you to constantly compare and despair

  • Follow only those accounts that encourage healthy, flexible and realistic nutrition and excise habits that preach body positivity.

  • Engage in mindfulness related activities and follow a healthy diet

  • Focus on increasing your self-confidence and self-acceptance

  • Bold a community of likeminded people who will support each other instead of pulling one another down.

  • Talk to your peers and seek parental advice which will ensure strong emotional bond

  • Over power any negative thoughts and distortion in your head with power affirmation.

  • Make use of your time and energy productively, instead of spending time worrying take charge and do something that will help yourself.

  • Learn to respect heterogeneity and educate others as well about body positivity.

  • Lastly, and most importantly learn to love yourself, since the first step in conquering the publicly induced body image consciousness is respecting oneself and accepting all the flaws.


stay tuned for more..

Written by our Member - Anusha Mangalvedhe (Get membership to feature your article. Check here)


You may not be surprised to hear about the harmful effects from using social media, especially on the younger generations. Studies have shown that social media can lead to a negative body image. It's something that is hard to avoid these days. We have put together an in-depth guide about the connection between social media and body image, including tips to help others avoid this effect. Check it out:

(In Partnership with Social Media Victims Law Centre)




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