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Social media & body image of adolescents

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The world is getting smaller every day, as social media and the internet has brought us closer to people from all around the world. Whether you see it as a bane or a boon, it is something that has become an integral part of our lives. Instagram and Facebook have started to make a great impact on adolescents, with the age group being the primary users.

According to the digital information world, the younger generation spends the most time on social media. The average time spent by adolescents on social media is 2 hours and 30 minutes. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook are places that want to sell perfection to their consumers. While they are trying to sell it, adolescents are looking for that validation which they think can be achieved once they are “perfect”. This strive for perfection often leads to changes in one’s body image, which is the perception you have of your physical self and thoughts and emotions that result from this perception.

The portrayal of what a perfect or an ideal body must look like is something that has continued for a long period, which is now being continued through social media. Researches have shown that this can harm an adolescent concerning their self-confidence and body satisfaction. Certain body types are being prioritized as being more attractive than others. This prioritization often leads to a comparison that adolescents start making with their bodies.

It’s not just girls who are subjected to unrealistic beauty standards, but also men. While trying to fit into that ideal body, they fall into a void where they start hating their body and the way they look. They spend hours clicking that perfect photo, applying filters, photoshopping the fat to get that thigh gap, just so that they can look like the type of attractive which is being sold to them. These painstakingly edited photos can lead to a false sense of control where adolescents can feel that can alter their bodies to get more positive attention. The difference between what they show and what they are in real life can also change the way they perceive themselves.

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Likes and comments are now a measurement of ones’ worth and a source through which one gains validation. These can lead to unhealthy competition regarding who’s thinner, sexier, etc. This competition is extremely problematic as it can lead to lower self-esteem, an unbalanced diet, deficiencies of vitamins and minerals and possibly eating disorders. The added pressure of social media on influencing body image for adolescents is heightened by the content on these visually-oriented social media platforms that are created by one’s peers. This can have a significant influence on them as adolescents often see their peers as one of their role models.

While there are adolescents who face such a negative impact on their body image, we cannot ignore that social media can also positively impact body image in several ways. Health and wellness, fitness accounts that promote people to work for themselves in a manner that is good for their physical and mental health can serve as great inspirational models for some adolescents. Other people documenting their health journey and sharing their highs and lows can also help them to feel that whatever they feel is normal and not to be something that they need to be worried about.

Research studies over the last few years have aimed at finding out the best practices to solve body image problems associated with social media, some of them even have come forward to help adolescents to maintain a positive body image. The BBC recommended social media users change the focus of their feeds and followers. Rather than following celebrities with heavily edited photos, one should find inspiring landscapes, delicious food, dance videos, and cute dogs to fill up their Instagram feed which might help them in remembering that there is more to life than what one should look like. Educational measures can be taken to educate adolescents about the right way to use social media and the fact that it does not always reflect reality. 

As Iskra Lawrence said, “Speak to your body in a loving way. It’s the only one you’ve got, it’s your home, and it deserves your respect”. And one needs to preach and practice as sacred it can be.

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Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh
Currently head of Department of Holistic Medicine & Wellness at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon Dr. Rachna Khanna Singh is a mental wellness expert with expertise in relationship, lifestyle & stress management. The founder and director of The Mind and Wellness Studio Dr. Rachna Khanna has worked with leading hospitals like Fortis Escorts, Dharamshila Cancer Hospital. Her specialties include stress management, lifestyle management for heart diseases, supportive care for chronically ill patients, work-life balance, parent-child bonding, cancer support care, ante/postnatal care, relationship counselling, pre-marital & marital counselling, adolescent counselling, psychiatric & psychological illnesses like depression, anxiety, insomnia.


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