The pressures of resolutions and new beginnings after the holiday season can be overwhelming. So why not make a change that will help free up time and headspace while also improving body image? Your social media life may be an area to evaluate…
Social media has undoubtedly become more and more prominent in our lives. On the one hand, these sites have showcased benefits, such as maintaining social connections and sharing meaningful content and life experiences with others1. On the other hand, problematic social networking site use (or SNS), such as commenting on others’ pictures and “lurking,” have been shown to have negative consequences on body image, self-esteem, and eating disorder symptoms. Even taking selfies, and excessively editing and manipulating these images, has been associated with greater body-related and eating concerns2.
As you reflect on the past year, think about how much time you spent scrolling through social media and comparing likes. What if you could start the new year off with a healthier and more productive approach to care for yourself and your self-esteem? These four simple tips can help you change social media behaviors in the new year.
1. Limit Overall Social Media Use
On average, we use social networking sites for over an hour a day3. While some of this social media time may be used in productive ways, maladaptive use of these sites for over an hour a day could lead to significant negative thoughts and feelings. Think about unplugging and limit time spent scrolling!
- Set aside a specific time every day to use your favorite sites.
- Delete the apps off your phone, limiting access to social media only from your computer.
- Use digital reminders or post-it notes on your computer to remind you of other activities you might enjoy more than scrolling through a social media feed. Texting a friend? Planning a vacation? Registering for a class?
2. Think Critically About Social Media
For some, it might seem impossible to remove social media entirely in a world where use is growing rapidly. So, while we can limit use overall, it can be greatly beneficial to change the way we perceive what we are exposed to when we are using social media. While scrolling through Facebook and Instagram and viewing everyone’s carefully selected and manipulated “best-self”, be sure that you are thinking critically about what you are seeing and posting.
- Remind yourself that images are often edited and re-edited!
- Be mindful of comparing yourself with peers or celebrities’ photos on social media.
- Notice if you are starting to feel poorly about yourself when scrolling and decide if it would be a good time to log off.
3. Remove or Block Negative Content
Exposure to content that promotes the “thin ideal”, or the promotion of a desire to be skinny or fit, is more common now than ever in a world of body-altering photo applications and “photoshopping” in the media. Many individuals with an eating disorder are prone to participate in negative social comparisons and are more likely to internalize the “thin ideal,” making them more susceptible to the negative effects of this type of imagery. Take some time to go through your social media and analyze what you are being exposed to and how it makes you feel.
- Are anyone’s photos making you feel poorly about yourself?
- Is a celebrity promoting disordered eating or dangerous products (like cleanses or detox teas) to maintain a “perfect figure?”
- If images or accounts are not helping you work towards recovery, hide the posts or block photos.
4. Follow More Positive Accounts
While the negative effects of social media have been the focus here, there are many reasons why these platforms have skyrocketed in recent years. Sites such as Facebook and Instagram can be great to share accomplishments, keep in contact with distant friends, or even see what your favorite musician or politician is up to. We can help to control what kind of messages and content we are exposed to by changing who we follow on social media.
- Fill your feed with positive role models, quotes, and positive peers to help create a body-positive environment that focuses on more than appearance to achieve self-worth.
Below are just a few examples of body positive or recovery-focused Instagram accounts you can choose to follow in the new year!
- National Eating Disorder Association
- Nalgona Positivity Pride
- Nourish and Eat
- CED at Sheppard Pratt
- Beauty Redefined
Ava Sardoni, Research Assistant
The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt
Ava is currently pursuing her Master’s in Clinical Psychology at Loyola University Maryland, with intent to graduate in May of 2019. She also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at Loyola University Maryland, graduating in May of 2018. Her past research projects include researching the relationship between specific personality traits and motivations for using online dating applications.
- Cohen, R., Newton-John, T., & Slater, A. (2018). ‘Selfie’-objectification: The role of selfies in self-objectification and disordered eating in young women. Computers in Human Behavior, 79. 68-74. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.10.027
- McLean, S.A., Wertheim, E.H., Masters, J., Paxton, S.J. (2016). A pilot evaluation of a social media literacy intervention to reduce risk factors for eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50. 847-851. doi: 10.1002/eat.22708
- Uhls, Y.T., Ellison, N.B., & Subrahmanyam, k. (2017). Benefits and Costs of Social Media in Adolescence. Pediatrics, 140(Supplement 2, S67-S70. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/Supplement_2/S67.long