Summer Selfies, Social Media & You
Social media can be an amazing tool for connection, learning, and sharing – it allows us to have access to information, people, and images that we may otherwise never get to experience. But while platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can enrich our lives in many ways, they are also rife with negative messages and unhelpful photos. For someone struggling with an eating disorder and negative body image, this can be particularly difficult. With summer starting and the weather warming up, people are turning to the beach – and with that comes a lot of diet talk and a focus on getting a “beach-ready body”. Selfies, before-and-after pictures, and manipulated photos can create an environment that breeds comparison, both with others and oneself. Being able to save our pictures online means we can go back and look at them whenever we want, which can be a dangerous trap for someone struggling with body acceptance. So how do we navigate social media, to challenge the comparisons and negative messages that discourage us from accepting our body? First, consider unfollowing those who post diet material, who are constantly engaging in diet talk, or posting unhelpful photos of their body. Removing these posts from your feed and replacing them with people who engage in body positivity can have an incredible impact on your social media experience. When you do happen upon an unhelpful photo or post about someone’s diet or efforts to change their body, take a moment to consider the information in an objective way – how many photos did they have to take to get that one shot? What is the rest of their life like aside from this single snippet that they decided to post? What might their mental health and emotional life be like if they are struggling with their body or striving to lose weight? Bringing in a broader perspective and challenging the content of the post can help separate you from the comparison. One thing many people struggle with is looking back at past photos of themselves and comparing their body to how they are now. This is often unhelpful, because in some way there will be negative or critical talk towards your body. A photo is meant to capture an image, but it is also meant to capture a moment in time – a memory, a feeling, a moment of connection. When you are looking back on old photos, choose to focus on what was going on for you in that moment – were you having fun? Were you struggling at that point in time? Who were you with and what were you doing? Take the focus away from what your body looked like, to what your life was like in that moment. You can choose how you want to use social media, and what role you want it to play in your life. Use this summer to decide for yourself – to actively combat the comparisons that barge in uninvited. You can change social media from being something that strengthens the negative body thoughts you may have, to a tool that promotes body acceptance and an overall sense of well-being and self-worth.