Social media apps like Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and more recently Tik Tok are widely used across the globe by all age ranges, but mainly “generation Z” and “millenials.” These platforms can be great for connecting with family and friends around the world, feeling comforted by our shared humanity and relatable struggles (especially after the physical and mental isolation brought on by COVID-19) and for sending the occasional hilarious dog video. But the darker side of these apps is the focus on appearance-based photos and videos and the tendency for comparison that it breeds. Scrolling through these feeds often leaves one thinking:
“Her stomach is so flat and toned, mine will never look like that.”
“Wow she eats so healthy, I wish I could have that kind of willpower.”
“He is so much more well-travelled and cultured than I am.”
“She looks so happy and in love with her partner, probably because she has the perfect body.”
“Everyone is having fun without me!”
From “What I Eat In A Day” and “weight loss journey” videos to tips on cutting out whole food groups and “fat burn” workout videos most content perpetuates diet culture and disordered eating, and often does so sneakily through “normal people.” This is concerning in itself, but when also targeted toward a young, impressionable population it carries an even stronger potential for harm. Many studies indicate a strong correlation between the exposure to the “thin ideal” on social media and an increase in reported eating disorders in adolescents over the past 50 years. If you’re tired of feeling drained by your social media I’d recommend taking a social media break for a few weeks or months and see how you feel without it. If logging off your accounts for a bit seems too daunting right now, here are some tips to keep you grounded and clean up your feed:
- Unfollow accounts that foster comparison and make you feel like your body is wrong or in need of changing. This could look like leaving behind the “healthy living” influencers and fitness accounts promoting a certain body ideal. It may take some time but after you unfollow these accounts your social media algorithms will begin to catch up with your new preferences!
- Seek out and follow accounts related to Health at Every Size, Intuitive Eating and fat positivity to start – there’s a large, evolving community here so take a look at the conversation going on and where you may feel at home, and seen, in this space. A helpful starting point may be checking out the resources on our website: http://www.colleenreichmann.com/resources/. Our practice also has accounts on Instagram and Tik Tok (@drcolleenreichmann) offering a safe space to try to counter the diet culture narrative that’s so pervasive on these platforms.
- Try to limit your screen time each day. When you’re caught up scrolling through social media feeds you’re distracted from the life going on right in front of you! It may help to remind yourself of your values and ask yourself if the accounts you follow and the time spent on social media accurately reflect those.
At the end of the day, social media is the highlight reel of the lives of your family, friends, peers, colleagues and even strangers. Plus, all the content (yes, even videos) can be, and often are, HEAVILY edited. You never truly know what’s going on on the other side of that picture or when the camera stops rolling. So try not to let what someone says or does on social media (particularly related to food and fitness) have an outsized impact on your life. Remember, we could all eat and move the same and still look different, that’s the amazing thing about body diversity! Here’s to a living life from beyond the confines of a phone screen.
By: Maddy Weingast, Assistant for Therapy for Eating Disorders and Body Image