BEIRUT: “Embrace your body and love yourself” is a slogan that’s probably captioned somewhere in most women’s newsfeed on social media. This slogan, however, contradicts any “quit slacking off and hit the gym” captions, which have a demeaning effect on women’s body image.
With the intensive control of social media nowadays on people’s daily habits, the abundance of body shaming posts on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter raises a question on the role of social media in reinforcing eating disorders.
The Confusion Effect of Social Media on Women
Between motivational posts and fake self-image accounts, the contradiction women are fed with leaves some confusion in their appreciation to body image, which in turn leads to either the complete neglecting of one’s health or an utter obsession in chasing a perfect body figure rather than a healthy one.
Psychiatrist and Psychologist Christina Riachy explains that the act upon such confusion depends on many psychological factors. For instance, women with enough self-love would refuse any de-motivation and won’t fall into the loop of confusion.
The Progress of Social Media’s Effect on Eating Disorders
With the assumption that social media has a negative effect on women’s eating habits, the relation between social media and eating disorders is not actually a direct one, but rather, an accumulation.
A study established by Jasmine Fardouly, a postdoctoral researcher working at the Centre for Emotional Health in the Department of Psychology-Australia, examines the relationship between Instagram use and body image concerns among women between the ages of 18 and 25 from the United States and Australia.
The study tested the relationship between internalization of social beauty ideal, appearance comparison theory, and this comparison with reference to certain target groups on Instagram. As a result, it found that greater uses of Instagram and viewing fitspiration images were accompanied with more body concerns, and that relationship was mediated by internalization, appearance comparison in general, and appearance comparison to celebrities and other women in fitspiration images.
The result thereby explains that women are exposed to body objectification, comparisons, and triggers.
Selfies on social media can send a message that beauty determines women’s worth in terms of likes and comments, which creates body objectification. As for comparison, it is formed as people judge themselves against others’ highlights of success and happiness.
For someone in the depths of an eating disorder, this can be toxic. To add, triggers for eating disorders could come from posts about weight loss, workout routines, or images of unrealistic ideals of body sizes. The three exposures could lead women towards fetching perfection in unrealistic and fast ways, neglecting the fact that this aim has to be achieved in certain procedures and on healthy terms.
Why Not Every Woman is Under Impact?
The reason why some women are directly submitted to dissatisfaction is narrowed down to different categories of people.
Dr. Riachy states that women who refer to such comparison could have low self-esteem depending on their core belief.
“From ages 0 to 11, core beliefs about ourselves and others are created in our minds, they could include the ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I am ugly theories,’ she said, explaining that low self-esteem is highly relevant to bio-psycho-social factors.
Mothers who tend to shame their daughters about their body image, peer/social pressure about a girl’s figure, or social media’s shaming are all components for the creation of lower self-esteem. This, in turn, excites the discomfort in women who have less self-confidence with their own bodies and enlarges their chances of chasing perfection and having eating disorders after reading more shaming feed.
Likewise, some women who suffer from anorexia or binge eating have no reference to social media and find no relation between their situation and anything external.
Redeeming a Healthier Effect of Social Media
The formula for redeeming a motivational effect of social media on women, in general, relies on reforming social media’s role, and selectively protecting one’s self from the negative vibes through it.
According to “Magnolia Creek,” a treatment center for eating disorders, the first strategy would suggest hindering fake accounts from sharing fake body images and urges the senders to focus more on a different purpose while spreading fitness motivation that is the purpose of healthy and fulfilling lifestyles.
The second strategy relies on women as receivers where they are supposed to spot the negative posts and accounts in order to “unfollow” any pages with body shaming content, as they should also be mindful of whom they follow.
Settling whether social media has a direct effect on eating disorders or not, could not be done at once. There are many other psychological factors that lead to an eating disorder right after the negative targeting of the media.
However, the actual presence of a relation between the two is significant, but the responsibility of social media in “feeding” us a healthy image about both physical and mental health is unquestionable.
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