What Harmful Effects Can Social Media Have On Perception Towards Self?
While looking in the mirror at yourself, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? After that do you encounter any particular thoughts coming to you? Those thoughts that are not seeded by you but what someone said to you or you just saw something that influenced how you perceived yourself? Not always it is about what we have thought about ourselves rather it can be other systems operating and making our vision blur. In a world full of first impressions we often feel defeated because we might feel that we are not what is “desired”. That is what has laid the foundation of issues on which stands the pillars of negative thoughts, low self-esteem, low confidence and feeling less confident in your own skin. The list can be a lengthy one when it is about the impact of social media on different aspects of our lives and body image issue is just one of them.
When we decide to put ourselves out there on social media then we have this notion in our minds to present our best and it cannot be denied as we might have done that and still do it. When we do that we choose to present ourselves to others in a way that it gives them the authority to influence our understanding of our own bodies. It is important to understand what the term ‘body image’ means. According to American Psychological Association body image means, the mental picture one, forms of one’s own body as a whole, including its physical characteristics and one’s attitude towards these characteristics. It is evident that it goes beyond having a particular perception about your body. Body image as a concept plays an important role in one’s life and sadly we derive the understanding from what people have to say about it. Going back to social media, it is a place where people put forward their extravagant side of their life as well as of themselves. Social media is also a place where celebrities, models and fashion industries have their established places and people can have access to those aspects as well. Social media adds on to it in negative manner as it is like adding more vulnerabilities and proneness of feeling insecure and less confident. At this point we start to measure and understand our image based on likes and followers. It is true that we often have this thought of looking like someone we wished or thought that our body was not perfect because we saw someone and felt insecure about ourselves. It is a common thing these days and also a significant cause when it comes to mental health conditions. More than that it is and has been a considerable cause of eating disorders. A constant exposure to a world that is filtered more than we can image, we start identifying our concerns on the basis of that. “Oh! I look fat; let me just not post this picture.” Wish I could like him/ her they are perfect.” Wish my body was like that model.” All these statements might have been there in our minds and we might have even tried to bring a change about it. These thought arise not because we actually feel the need to bring a change but mostly because we are not what is liked by others and what others think is ideal. Different age groups have a different impact of what they see on social media, like what a teenager see and how he or she perceives it would be drastically different from what an adult sees and perceives. For young people it can be more influential as they are already in a quest of finding and establishing themselves. Comparing is a basic tendency, let it be in a teenager or in an adult, but these comparisons are highly unrealistic. It is not always that we choose to compare but sometimes it just happens and you never know that what toll a single thought can take on your wellbeing, self-esteem, body image and mood in general. It might make us want a particular type of body which is for that matter is not even required or is a necessity but because of the constant exposure to look perfect and like what others want can make those thought appear again and again making us anxious, reducing our confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and our understanding of our body. We all have insecurities but imagine you decide to edit your picture to make you look what is desirable for others. You did it once, and then you decide to do it again and again. Now it shows that you have not accepted yourself rather you are letting other people tell you what you are. This cyber alteration of self-existing on the grounds of few likes and comments is not the truth. Even though you might feel confident and beautiful after getting those likes and comments but those are not directed to you but to the altered cyber self that you have created. What is this going to do with your personal insecurities? How does it help you to identify yourself and your body? Because the more time you will take to edit a picture, the less you will be satisfied with your own body. It is all about lacking a perspective and further which can lead to real issues. It is true that we have different understanding of our bodies and those understanding do not always go parallel with what we might actually want to look like or be like. This can make us feel different and not as a part of the group that has been advocating those standards related to body and appearances. This feeling can make us vulnerable to get trapped in it as we always want to fit in, even if we have to filter our body’s shape and size. This is not an appropriate way of judging self and will keep on continuing as more and more people will fall in this trap. It has been harmful at a psychological level because we often forget a simple fact that what people or for that matter influential people are putting up that side of themselves that is not always real; rather the reality is hidden deep under the layers of filters and edits to look their best.
Why don’t we just look around ourselves and see how things are different as they have different shape and sizes. These differences need to be embraced. Same goes for human beings. Even if we want to compare ourselves with someone then it should be you and yourself. Compare yourself with how you were yesterday. Each one of you is beautiful, irrespective of your shape, size and color. We might have struggled to feel beautiful but that struggle should teach you to love and accept your body type and just the way you are. Social media is going nowhere and will continue to exist but it is in our hands to look for those things that are best for us. Instead of feeling less confident about bodies it is better to acknowledge the need for change at an individual level and then having a discussion about it. If you really feel the need to bring a change in the way you look then it should not be to fit in. It should be something that would make you happy from within. All that needs to be done is to stop falling in this trap of comparing and wanting what is not yours and even if it would be you won’t feel satisfied as you will be attracted towards something else. It is important to raise questions about why we need to feel in a certain way about our body. Why is the validation needed? Is this happiness going to last for long term? What is stopping you to identify yourself in your own ways and terms? All these questions can really make you think differently and can take you on a positive journey about you and your body image.