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Lack of Transparency on Social Media: The Impact It Has On Mental Health & Body Image

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Culture, Mental Health, Social Media

Lack of Transparency on Social Media: The Impact It Has On Mental Health & Body Image

Illustration Credit: Rami Niemi

With great technological advancements in the past decade, social media has become the most transformative and impactful tool within our society. It has forever changed the way we communicate with others, how we receive information, and how we view ourselves. Although transformative, social media has cultivated a false sense of reality, leading to a comparative nature within its users. Social media magnifies the negative impact of social comparison for teens. That’s because they compare themselves to carefully curated images of their peers. And they compare themselves to celebrities or others who have achieved at unusually high levels. As a result, teens feel that their own accomplishments aren’t enough. The lack of transparency along with the comparative nature of social media may bring upon an increase in mental health and body issues amongst young adults and teenagers

What started off as a platform for individuals to express themselves has turned into an advertisement of false reality. 

The official introduction to modern-day social media began in 2009 with the popularity of Facebook. Through the years, popularity amongst social media has shifted to Instagram. Since 2011, it has dominated social media applications amongst young adults and teens in the United States, revolutionizing the way that individuals connect with their friends, family, and celebrities. With over 1 billion users, Instagram has become the most impactful social media application, making modern-day individuals into ‘influencers’ overnight. What started off as a platform for individuals to express themselves has turned into an advertisement of false reality. 

A Lack of Full Disclosure

Social media allows individuals to stay in touch with friends worldwide, while also keeping up with their favorite ‘influencers’, celebrities, and the latest trends. However, it has a substantial downside to it. The problem with social media is the lack of transparency amongst celebrities and ‘influencers’ who have a large following and the power to impact individuals worldwide. Celebrities and ‘influencers’ often do not fully disclose the modifications they’ve done to photos or to themselves and only showcase the good within their lives; creating a false sense of reality. This leads many to believe that the lives and appearance of many they see online are perfect. The problem with this is that it not only affects the way individuals perceive their lives but also how they perceive themselves. Individuals push to look, act, and live like the influential population, causing many to feel inadequate. 

Young girls reported enjoying seeing content shared by celebrities, adding that it created pressure due to the social expectations that revolve around their body and appearance.

This lack of transparency online leads to not only mental health but also body image issues. Many young adults and teenagers do not understand that a lot of what they see online has been altered in one way or another. The emphasis in media on a perfect airbrushed body leads to body image issues. According to a study conducted on social comparison and body image in adolescence,  young girls reported enjoying viewing content shared by celebrities and fashion models. Adding that these photos and stories created pressure due to the social expectations that revolve around their body and appearance. Additionally, the increase of celebrities and influencers promoting procedures and products that rid of the natural imperfections of the body such as discoloration, cellulite, stretch marks, and scars (among the many) push many to feel that these physical attributes need to be fixed. The lack of highlighting and normalizing these features thus causes insecurities that are detrimental to one’s body image. 

Initiatives Towards Change

There needs to be greater transparency and accountability held within the influential population. They need to have an understanding of the power and the impact they have on the confidence and well being of the younger generation and generations to come. What they need to understand is that with their platform comes a responsibility, to be honest to their following. Instagram accounts such as @igfamousbodies and @celebface are dedicated to shedding light on the realities behind the social media posts of popular users. Pages like this are pushing for more transparency on Instagram Additionally, Instagram accounts such as @thebodiesofwomen highlight the beauty of unfiltered REAL bodies, normalizing the ‘flaws’ that many edit out of their photos. These types of accounts call attention to the need for transparency and the normalization of unconventional features that many may edit out of their pictures. Hopefully, initiatives such as these allow social media users to understand that no one is perfect, and that what they see on social media is not always reality.

What do you think can be done to push for more transparency on social media?

Sources:

Social Media Comparison & Teen Mental Health

Social comparison and body image in adolescence: a grounded theory approach

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