Can Social Media Exacerbate Eating Disorders?

Can Social Media Exacerbate Eating Disorders?

Social media has taken the world by storm, and, with its near-constant presence, it is hard for anyone to argue against its almost ubiquitous impact. Social media affects how we communicate, treat other people and perceive ourselves.

As a side note, studies have reported a steep increase in eating disorder rates among teenagers in the past three years. And, in 2012, the number of females who sought help for an eating disorder dwarfed the number of males seeking help, with the ratio being 32:1.

Eating disorders are caused by a variety of biological, social, interpersonal and psychological factors, so experts believe that social media greatly influences the risks for eating disorders. Social media acts like peer pressure: they provide a vehicle for others to voice their opinions, which impacts how people feel about themselves.

Everyone needs to feel liked and accepted, like they belong to someone or something. So, when other people vote on what they like and what they find attractive, then other people can take these opinions and views to heart. In other words, social media magnifies the normal social pressures that influence people to base their worth on physical appearance and body type.

While magazines, television shows and other forms of media glorify thinness, social media can bring these issues to a personal level. Instead of comparing one’s self to models, entertainers and other public images, people may feel pressure to compare themselves to friends, acquaintances and other people.

Before social media exploded, many people knew of the airbrushing, makeup and other tricks people used to make models and celebrities look as attractive as they do. But, when someone’s social circle post these images, the pressure seems more real. The impact social media has on body image and eating disorders probably would not be so bad if people did not spend countless hours every day looking at photos and videos, but large percentages of people use social media multiple times a day.

Social media is on constantly, so people have endless access to pro-anorexic content and other messages about how one should look, feel and act to be accepted by friends, communities and society. Some individuals cannot believe that pro-skinny messages are so influential, but many people want to be liked, so, if society displays a culture that praises a certain look, then impressionable minds will strive to achieve that look.

Eating disorders are life-threatening mental health conditions. Achieving a certain weight or body shape will not provide the acceptance, empowerment or fulfillment that people truly desire. Over time, the weight of the disease can destroy one’s health, wellness, relationships, career and livelihood. Eating disorders lead to countless problems, so do not sacrifice your health and happiness by ignoring one.