Body Image and Social Media - How They Are Related!

Written by: Meenakshi Joshi – M Sc

Last updated date : March 27, 2022

Table of Contents

Body Image and Social Media – How They Are Related!

  1. What Is a Good Body Image?
  2. Body Image and Social Media
  3. Ways to Reduce the Social Media Effect on Body Image

For the youth today, phones are the most prime thing they have. And by phone, we mean social sites. It is through these sites that the youth or teens relate with the world. Even adults are hooked onto these sites. These sites affect people greatly. It is true that social media is affecting body image.

Chapter 1:

What Is a Good Body Image?

Body image is your view of your body. It is how you see yourself. Basically, it is how attractive or nice you feel you look. Your body image depends on what you like about yourself. For example – you feel you have nice hair, you like the way you dress, you have nice biceps, you have a cute face, etc. 

When you see yourself as attractive or when you like how you look, you have a good or positive body image. Simply put, the more you feel “good” about your body, the better is your body image.

On the other hand, if you feel unhappy or disappointed with your body, then you have a poor body image. For example – you might feel you are too fat or too unshapely. You might not like your nose or your arms. When you go out, you feel you don’t get enough attention from others especially the opposite gender. 

Four aspects of body image
  • Your perception about your body – this means how you see yourself no matter what is real. So, you might look at yourself in a way that is not correct or real. We are very likely to see what we think is true and not see what really is true. For example – if you are very concerned about your weight, you will always feel that you look fat. In fact, you will have several complaints about how you look. But in reality, you might not be fat. Your bodyweight might be proper for your height i.e. your body mass index could be normal.
  • Your affective body image – this means how you feel about your body. In other words, your feelings or emotions about your looks. How satisfied or unsatisfied you are about your height, weight, shape, size, dressing style, features of your face, etc.
  • Your cognition about your body – this means what you think and believe about yourself. You may believe that you will look much better if you reduce 5 kilograms of weight or if you have broader shoulders. These ideas that you have about “how you should look” affects your thoughts and beliefs about your own self.
  • Your behaviour to change yourself – this means the things or steps you take about your body. You may engage in some behaviour to change your body size or shape if you don’t like the way you look. You might exercise too much or go on a very strict diet to get comfortable with the way you look.

Chapter 2:

Body Image and Social Media

Whether you like it or not, social media has become the most influential thing these days. How we define “beauty” or what we consider “cool” is more or less controlled by what we see online. Our ideas and concepts about our body image or self-image are deeply linked with what is on the net.

First, let us understand how this social media influence works.

Is social media creating a "false desirable" body image?

What we see on the internet stays in our minds. It knowingly or unknowingly affects everything we do. The images or pictures we see in media shapes our ideas and beliefs. It is true that visual media or images are very potent. In other words, once you see something it gets fixed in your mind.

So, when you see the perfect bodies of models and celebrities on social media and see the love and adoration they receive, you feel you should have the same. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you start feeling “that’s how I should look too”. You might even believe that the only way to get recognised is to be like those celebrities. 

In other words, being “thin” or “fit” is the only way you can get love from people. Only people who are “thin” or “fit” become popular. If you want to be famous or cool, you too should have the perfect body and look “great” all the time. 

However, this is not true. Not everyone looks like a model. Not everyone can have “the perfect bikini body” or “the 6 pack abs”. Gym videos and reels might be “most trending” today but it is not possible for everyone to do something like that. 

Why is social media affecting body image?

There are many reasons why we get so affected by what we see on social media. Some of the reasons could be –

  • Changing value system – It seems we are changing our value system from the very core. In other words, we have started giving utmost importance to things that were not so important earlier. Today, we tend to value “being famous”, “being adored”, “standing out from the crowd”, etc. way too much. As a society, we are obsessed with outshining everyone. Social media is promoting “having the perfect body” as the best way to reach these goals.
  • Lifestyle and competition – Thanks to our lifestyle and competition today, we want to be the “best”. Nothing else will do. So, we compete with others all the time – to look better, have the best body, and wear the best clothes. And this is exactly what is targeted in social media. Social media influencers and posts sometimes use these insecurities and dreams to gain popularity.
  • Fast Recognition – We want everything quickly. We want to earn quick money, we love in and out of love quickly too. In addition, we have become impatient. Getting media attention is a fast way of getting famous.
  • Self-esteem boast – Having a certain number of likes and shares has become the indicator of our self-esteem. Similarly, our self-esteem depends on the number of followers we have or how many views our picture or video gets.
  • Advertisement – People and companies use social media to advertise. So many-a-times what we see on these sites, the people, how they look, or what they do are advertisements of the products or services they are trying to sell. These are paid campaigns and are meant to look perfect. They are not real.

Chapter 3:

Ways to Reduce the Social Media Effect on Body Image

You do agree that social media is greatly affecting our body image. However, there are ways you can reduce or stop this hold that social media has on you.

  • Be selective in who and what you follow – Try to control what you see when you are surfing social media. You can stop following pages or people who tend to put pressure on you to “be slim or fit”. Avoid everything that gives you a complex or makes you upset.
  • Take a break from screen – Take frequent breaks from any type of screen now and then. Try to decide a time in the day when you will surf the social sites. Decide when you will be screen-free.
  • Join a hobby class or learn something new – Try to be more active offline! Use your free time to learn a new skill or join a hobby class. Try to spend time doing something creative.
  • Find a page or group which targets other things that interest you – So, try to find pages that talk about your interests. For example – If you like gardening, then look out for pages about gardening.
  • Stop being obsessed with taking “selfies” – Yes, selfies are fun but don’t forget to live the moment.
  • Show some self-love – You are perfect the way you are! Don’t focus too much on what is not good. Accept and love yourself!

To conclude, social media is greatly affecting our body image. We tend to be very sensitive and conscious about our bodies. We all want the “perfect body”. However, the pressure we put on ourselves is insane. Do not judge yourself by what you see on these sites. Cut off from social media once in a while and try to live in the offline world.