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Can Social Media Use Cause Body Image Issues?

Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok… Our generation’s obsession with social media keeps us glued to our phones, scrolling, liking, and commenting all day long. And every time we open these apps, we’re flooded with images of celebrities and influencers who have seemingly flawless appearances. The more we scroll, the more we compare ourselves to these social media superstars, which often causes us to think negatively about and criticize our own appearances.

It’s crucial for us to continuously remind ourselves that social media is not real life. It’s a highlight reel. After all, no one posts bad pictures of themselves on the internet! And it is SO important to note that most of the flawless, gorgeous celebrity pictures we see on our feeds are heavily altered, photoshopped, and filtered. Learning to embrace your own unedited, unfiltered appearance and realizing that everyone has imperfections are essential parts of developing a healthy, sustainable relationship with your body.

Most of us have at least one celebrity who we idolize on social media – we follow their accounts, like all of their pictures, and wish we could look like them. You may be surprised to learn that in real life, many of these high-profile individuals barely resemble their photographs! Countless celebrities, from television stars to professional athletes to musicians to supermodels, have been busted for heavily photoshopping the pictures they post. They erase inches off their waists and legs, fill out their curves, conceal their blemishes, and even smooth the frizz out of their hair. And they do all this editing in addition to the operations they’ve already undergone to permanently alter their appearances.

Let’s stop and reflect on that – celebrities who change their faces and bodies through plastic surgeries still feel the need to use photoshop, portraying increasingly unnatural and untruthful versions of themselves. They teach their massive followings that thinness is the most important thing. They teach us that a natural body is not attractive or acceptable. They teach us to idolize 20 inch waists and completely poreless skin, no matter how unrealistic these features actually are. They teach us to desire impossible beauty standards. And these messages are particularly harmful for adolescents, who often don’t understand or acknowledge the dangers of untruthful social media content.

No matter how many times they are called out for it, influencers will probably never stop photoshopping their pictures, and social media will always be saturated with filtered, altered images. It’s understandable if these images make you feel less than beautiful; you’re only human. But it’s essential to start challenging the impossible standards our society has created. You can start by fighting the urge to compare yourself with photoshopped faces and bodies. Remind yourself often that social media is not real life. Take a break from social media if it’s interfering with your self-esteem or self-worth, or if it seems to be doing more harm than good in your life. Look in the mirror and list five things that you love about yourself. Body positivity begins when comparison with others ends!

Written by Simone Gmuca, nutrition volunteer at Restore Family Therapy.

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