Body image anxiety and social media
How social media contributes to body anxiety and what you can do about it.
Caroline avatar
Written by Caroline
Updated over a week ago

Since the advent of social media, photo-sharing platforms like Instagram and Facebook have created more opportunities for comparison of ourselves to millions of others around the world. Social media influencers have largely continued the trends beauty magazines had begun generations before: idealising a certain body shape, size, and aesthetic as “beautiful”, to the exclusion of all others. Many apps now have filters available to alter photos of ourselves to appear more “beautiful”.

Approximately 90% of young adults in Australia and New Zealand use social media every day. A recent meta-analysis of 69 studies looking at social media and body image suggests that social media does generally have a small negative impact on body image over time. And, importantly, more time spent looking at appearance-ideal images is associated with poorer body image.

Two theories that help us to understand why more exposure to image-related content on social media and body image are social comparison theory and objectification theory. Social comparison theory suggests that comparisons made with others seen as more attractive, or thinner (upward comparisons) result in body dissatisfaction. Objectification theory states that our society promotes a culture where women are seen as objects for the viewing pleasure of others and that women are, then, more likely to self-objectify, becoming preoccupied with how their body looks to others.

Suffering from poor body image can lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and disordered eating. If you notice that your social media use is leading to body dissatisfaction, take a look at some useful strategies below:

What you can do about it

  1. Perform a stocktake of your content! If you're finding that every time you open your Instagram or Tiktok, you're bombarded with images that make you feel bad about yourself, take a look at the accounts you're following. Delete ones that make you feel inadequate and judgemental about yourself, and instead follow accounts that focus on body positivity or body neutrality, which is the idea that people can exist in their bodies without concentrating too much on how it looks.

  2. Don't fall prey to marketing ploys or influencers promoting products and routines that are promising quick fixes or unhealthy means to achieving the “perfect body”. Detox teas, diet pills, and 'get abs quickly' exercise routines are touted as being your silver bullet, but often aren't sustainable and are, in fact, harmful. Unfollow accounts that promote these unhealthy means.

  3. Check your self-talk. Notice the way you're talking to yourself about your body and imagine saying those things to a beloved friend, sister, niece or daughter. How does that feel? Try rewriting your self-talk to be more compassionate, whilst still being honest and encouraging. Instead of criticism and judgment, try acknowledging how you’re feeling (Reminder: fat, disgusting and gross are not feelings!!!), and reminding yourself that you are more than a body to be viewed by others. Try listing a few things you’re proud of about yourself - this could be to do with your skills, efforts, traits, achievements or actions.

  4. Try to think about your body from your subjective experience, rather than objectifying your own body. Rather than wondering what you look like, focus on what feels good for you. Does daily exercise make your body feel better, or improve your mood? How do you feel after fast food compared with a balanced, home-made meal? Learning to trust your intuition and listen to your body is a positive step toward loving and caring for your body, rather than judging and criticising it.

If you're finding that you're struggling with your body image or mental health in general, it's important to speak to someone who can help you. Chat with our team at Sonder or talk to your GP or psychologist who can provide support.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Information sourced from: HelpGuide, EmotionsMatters and ADAVIC.

Image sourced from: Dumplin

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

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