Social media can likely affect self-perceived image in young women, says study

January 18, 2019

The popularity of social media has highlighted both its pros and cons on our health and well being.

Some experts observe that the more time spent online, lesser time is spent on real life social interaction. Studies have also linked social media use to loneliness, even suggesting weaning away from social media, or “detoxifying” to avert feelings of isolation.

Social media use may affect our self-perceived body image, according to a new study published in the Body Image journal. Jennifer Mills, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Canada led this examination into the effects of social media on self-perceived body image – especially that of young women.

The research involved two groups of female undergraduates aged 18–27 ; those in one group were required to log into Facebook and Instagram for about 5 minutes and find one peer of similar age whom they “explicitly” considered more attractive than themselves. Those in the control group also logged into Facebook or Instagram for about 5 minutes but had to leave a comment on a post of a family member whom they did not consider more attractive.The researchers then asked all of the participants to comment on the photos of their peers.

Before and after these tasks, the participants filled in a questionnaire about self-dissatisfaction -what they felt about their own appearance – using a scale ranging from “none” to “very much”. The researchers scored the responses such that created a resulting 100-point scale.

Overall, the results show that these young women felt dissatisfied with their appearance and bodies, feeling even worse after looking at social media pages of someone they perceived as more attractive. Even if the women felt bad about themselves beforehand, the short social media engagement increased their negative body acceptance. Mills concluded that some people are more vulnerable and easily triggered by social media, which lead them to engaging in stringent dieting, resulting in eating disorders; and excessive exercise.

Educating oneself to responsible social media use as well as its pros and cons is thus important to avoid this problem. “When we compare ourselves [with] other people, there is a potential to affect the valuation of ourselves,” Mills said.This means limited usage, prioritising, and using networks productively. Alternatively, you can go outside and spend time with family and friends.

Social media use should be monitored regularly as with any addiction, or better still: try to live more in the real world for greater perks.

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Category: Education, Features

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