Welcome to our Youth Talk Blog, a section dedicated to youth lived-experiences with mental health and wellbeing, with weekly blog posts from diverse young people’s perspectives. This is a positive, fun and resourceful space, showcasing young people thriving and connecting with healthful activities, resources and support. This post has been written by Jess, our Community Education intern, who is a 22-year-old psychology student.
More than ever, social media plays a critical and significant role in our everyday lives. We look at it to determine what we will do, how we will perceive and judge things and to keep informed. However, it can also have some adverse effects on our mental health. Young people are more likely to be influenced by social media, thereby impacting their wellbeing. In the process of transitioning through different developmental stages, for instance, from teenager to adults, we often look up to social media for guidance. Body image concerns can be an issue arising from social media consumption by young people. Seeing all of these influencers who project a picture of unrealistic expectations puts the idea forward that this is what should be normalised. Expectations involving always being happy or always looking great. I know from my own experience this affects me more than I knew originally. Most young people are surrounded by this every day, and this has a flow on effect on how we view ourselves.
For myself and my friends, I notice a massive impact on how we view our own body image, by looking at influencers we follow on Instagram. These people post almost flawless pictures of themselves with the perfect slim or hourglass figure, having clear skin with no blemishes or pimples, when in reality these images are often airbrushed or photoshopped. This makes me question myself and my own worth from seeing everyone praise this image. This is not a one-off rare occasion; our social media is filled to the brim with these messages and standards of beauty. Therefore, we are constantly having reinforced in our heads ridiculously high standards. This can lead to low self-esteem and change in diet and exercise habits. It can become toxic by not eating enough or pushing the body too hard physically to reach a specific result.
It is important we are aware of the effects social media can have and the power it can have in controlling how we think and behave. Here are a couple of tips from the YWCA to help change this:
- Challenge the thoughts you have of yourself; would you think the same of your friends and family?
- Be a critical thinker, be aware of unrealistic expectations that can be projected
- Shift your mindset do not see people for only what they look like but also who they are
- Think of what you love about yourself and write it down
- Focus on feeling better more than looking it
- Make sure you have a balanced diet and get the exercise your body needs
- Embrace being yourself in your own unique way.
- Filtering the list of accounts you follow to ensure that you’re not consuming a lot of content from accounts which may influence adverse body image and appearance concerns
Although social media can be a place that gives toxic body image and detriments to mental health, it can also be a place that challenges social norms of body image and can promote body positivity and allow people to share with each other their own experiences. It is not about consumption of social media, but about the type of content being consumed.
Overall, it is important to lift each other up as well as yourself. However, we cannot do this through negative comparisons on social media. It’s recommendable to regulate and limit how much time we are spending on this - especially on days when you feel low or anxious – but most of all, be aware of the effects this can have on us. It is important to have a positive view of oneself and to make sure you look after your mind, body and soul.
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