Social media has become a day-to-day part of our lives. In the mornings, we scroll through Facebook, in the evenings we find ourselves scrawling through Twitter and Instagram to see what people have been doing with their days. Although social media gives people access to loved ones all over the world and allows us to keep in touch with those that may have drifted apart if we were to use traditional pen and paper, there is also a darker side to this 21st-century obsession. It doesn’t take a deep exploration of the depths of news feeds in order to find a plethora of individuals comparing themselves to others. Unfortunately, this platform of comparison leads to so many young girls becoming gripped by the fear that they are nothing like the photo shopped Celebrities, Influencers and Models that parade throughout our news-feeds.
As I sat scrolling through Twitter, as I do on a daily basis, I saw one of the most worrying posts I have ever seen coming from profiles of girls as young as 15. This post was referring to pictures of models and celebrities, with the horrific claim that they are ‘the ugliest girls on Twitter’ compared to these women. Worryingly, these posts are not uncommon, and are not specific to young girls. Both men and women, young and old are being sucked in to this horrific black hole of self deprication, and it’s only getting worse.
Social media is the unfortunate birthplace of a new type of body shaming, the type that can reach you at any point in the day without hesitation. But this body shaming does not originate from others, it is not from online trolls and it is not from bullies in the playground. Sadly, it comes from the girls themselves. The unrealistic expectations and aspirations that are placed on girls have been aggravated by the emergence of ‘easy to use’ photo editing apps and filters, meaning that more and more girls aspire to conform to body type, face and a type of lifestyle that simply is not achievable. Their self esteem hits rock bottom every single time they scroll through these images, but the horrific nature of this self body shaming doesn’t end there…
In the UK alone, according to the Mental Health Foundation, between 600,000 and 725,000 people are affected by an eating disorder. Eating disorders, including Anorexia and Bulimia, can be triggered by a severe lack of confidence or self-esteem issues, meaning that unfortunately, the self esteem issues that are surfacing from social media are triggering thousands of people. But these disorders are not just serious externally, but more so internally. Research has found that 20% of people living with anorexia will die prematurely from their condition; bulimia is also associated with severe medical complications. This shows that eating disorders ARE severe mental health problems that must be taken seriously, again reiterating the fact that the dark side of social media needs to be tackled.
Although eating disorders will always exist in society, social media is fueling the rise in the amount of people suffering with social media; the usual list of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is not exhaustive.
There are specific social media outlets that are dedicated to fueling eating disorders is particularly, worrying,with “thinspiration” websites that are dedicated to encouraging young men and women with eating disorders to maintain their life-threatening illnesses and post ‘inspirational’ images to encourage others within the community.
Such pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites offer tips and tricks that help sufferers not only aggravate their illness, but also hide their illnesses from friends and family to ensure that their issues are not tackled head on. Sadly, but with little wonder, numbers of teenagers that have been admitted to hospitals with eating disorders has more than doubled in the past three years. This spike in numbers also follows the spike in the amount of users of social media, something that cannot be ignored.
Recently, Missguided have used the power of social media to make a stand against the issues that arise as a result of social media in relation to body shaming. They have launched the #Makeyourmark campaign in which their models are now NOT airbrushed and many of their campaigns feature women who fall outside of the ‘conventionally beautiful’ category… it’s getting people talking, and maybe its time that other companies followed in their footsteps?
When will the time come that we show people it’s ok to not conform to the idea of the ‘perfect body’, and it’s ok to have lumps and bumps?
Do you know someone who you think may be suffering with an eating disorder or low self esteem/ confidence issues?
Take a look at this article below to help you spot the signs and help someone in need today.