The impact of social media on body image and mental heath

June 15, 2022 - 12:00pm

Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter. Chances are, you are one of the billions of people who use at least one of these social media platforms.

While the idea of being informed and connected draws us to these sites, we also need to consider that may be dangerous to your health.  The Homewood Health Article, “The Dangers of Social Media on Your Mental Health”, states that the more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to suffer from mental health issues. Researchers are discovering the association between online social networking and a variety of negative feelings and psychiatric disorders such as decreased self-esteem, anxiety, depression, deterioration in concentration and surprisingly, a feeling of a lack of connection.

Diving deeper into this topic, social media is riddled with unrealistic expectations for children, youth and adults – especially when it comes to body image.

Another article from Homewood Health, “The Impact of Social Media on Body Image and Mental Health”, defines body image as how someone views their body physically, plus the positive or negative thoughts and feelings they experience as they look at themselves. Informed by this resource, consider the following aspects of body image:

  1. Perceptual – The way you see yourself “is not always a correct representation of what you actually look like.”
  2. Affective – What you like or dislike about the way your body looks. It’s a focus on “appearance, weight, shape and body parts.”
  3. Cognitive – The way you think about yourself which ties to what you believe about yourself.
  4. Behavioural – Actions that you take or things you do that are directly related to your appearance.

Body image influences self-esteem, self-acceptance, and someone’s general outlook on life, which are three important mental health indicators. With social media full of unrealistic body image standards, a negative body image is enforced and can be harmful to your health. With repeated exposure, our thinking can perceive “exaggerated or imagined flaws” in how we look, resulting in Body Dysmorphic Disorder, eating disorders, depression, or other mental health conditions.

Body image is also heavily influenced by other people, ideas and surroundings. Our constant and continued exposure to social media can lead us to self-objectification, which is the process of monitoring your body from an outsider’s perspective. Self-objectifying behaviours can include, but are not limited to: excessive mirror looking, frequent selfies, critiquing your appearance in the reflection and photographs, and comparing yourself to images in the media and other people. Local health and fitness coach, Gillian Goerzen, believes that “self-objectification is literally stealing away our mental and physical capacity to think, act and perform our best”.

Learn more about the effects social media has on our health and body image, and what we can do about it, in the following resources:

The Dangers of Social Media on Your Mental Health – Homewood Health ARTICLE

Social Media: The Impact on Body Image and Mental Health – Homewood Health WEBINAR

Self-Objectification: why “body positivity” is not enough - Gillian Goerzen - Super You April 6, 2021

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