How social media has changed the way we see ourselves
As social media becomes all-pervasive, it has had a significant impact on society. Almost everybody is on social media today.
As more people join Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and other networking sites, there is far greater sharing of information, content, thoughts and ideas than ever before. Social media helps build online communities, connect audiences, and generate revenue.
However, the downside to these activities is the desire to stay in the spotlight. This can consequently lead to low self-esteem and create a negative perception of one’s “body image”.
Body image is how people think about their appearance and how they perceive themselves. A negative body image harms individuals who are affected by the impractical, often absurd, manner in which they view themselves.
The assumption that a person must always look good on social media has become a disorder in itself.
There is a strong connection between social media and body image issues. While, on the one hand, social media has opened up many avenues for networking, it has brought with it, the pressure to look good, get thousands of likes and positive comments on various platforms. This can affect the mental health of many young people. Validation from the online community has become something of an addiction.
Everyone likes to be complimented on their looks. But when this happens on social media, its effect is often amplified. People often seek approval and appreciation from strangers who they meet online. But if, despite their best efforts, the comments they receive are negative, it can lead to sadness and depression.
A majority of those who have body image issues are people who compare their pictures with those posted by others. If they perceive that they fall short, they feel dejected. Low self-esteem has become something of a norm among social media users and can be detrimental to their mental well-being.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, low self-esteem affects people of all ages, not just the young. They get affected by things such as weight issues, which then can be a catalyst that forces them into depression and alcohol or substance abuse. Similar findings were revealed in a poll of 4,505 adults by YouGov in the United Kingdom. The study revealed that 57% of people aged 18 to 24 years admitted to having anxiety over their body image, compared with 30% in the age group of 45 to 54 years, and 20% for those over the age of 55.
Global statistics show that at least 91% of women are not happy with how they look and end up following trendy diets to achieve an “ideal body”. These statistics apply across race, marital status, gender and age. Almost half of the population that uses social media has admitted to having had low self-esteem.
Negative body image and low self-esteem can lead to anxiety, nervousness, depression, jealousy, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, and living in a make-believe world where social media perfection has a disproportionate influence on people.
However, with some effort, society can overcome body image issues. There should be a culture of inclusivity and the promotion of a positive body image. Parents should be more careful and look for signs of negative body image among children and seek timely help. Parents can help their children by promoting a positive body image, making their children understand the implications of unnecessary social media use. They can seek help from trained counsellors and psychiatrists.
Social media is both a blessing and a curse. It is up to us how we use it.
Sasha Raikhy Sain is a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and director and founder, Possitive Vibes
The views expressed are personal