Social media have thoroughly modified our means of communication and exploration of new topics. The capability to view images depicting the physical form of other individuals is unprecedented among users of well-known online communities, including Instagram and Snapchat (Boxer). Social media’s overwhelming quantity of visual content can affect how teens perceive their bodies. The portrayal of unrealistic and unachievable beauty standards on different social networking sites is leading teenagers to develop a poor body image.
Parks’ (2017) research shows that almost all kids have access to a smartphone, with 95%, while 89% use social media every day. Social media platforms play a significant role in circulating images portraying idealized body shapes and features as beautiful or desirable to society (Parks). Young women are particularly vulnerable to the detrimental impacts on body image perception caused by exposure to these types of media. Best and Harris’ research from 2013 supports this claim.
Conforming to social media’s definition of perfect appearance can lead to various psychological conditions like anxiety and depression, especially for young women, according to Kardaras’ research in 2023. In his research in 2022, Boxer Wachler found that social media usage among young adults could lead them towards an obsession with their looks and physique owing to societal expectations (Kardaras).
Social networking site usage is linked to higher levels of dissatisfaction with physical appearance among teenage females. Less confidence and greater feelings of sadness are commonly experienced by girls who spend more extended periods using social media (Best, Joel, and Scott). The detrimental effects of social media on one’s perception of their physical appearance appear not only limited to females but also apply to males based on research from Kardaras (2023). Males who frequently use these online platforms are inclined to engage in behaviors reflective of poor self-images, such as overexercising or utilizing steroids.
Social media negatively influence teenagers’ perception of their bodies, affecting their mental health. Adolescents’ discontent with their bodies, along with eating disorders or sadness and worry, could all stem from the impractical beauty norms depicted on social media (Ling and Pederson). Evidence suggests that when it comes to expressing dissatisfaction with one’s physical appearance, girls outscore boys as per multiple studies conducted. Therefore, they end up being more vulnerable and negatively impacted by how social media affects their self-image (Ling and Pederson). The pressure of conforming to societal beauty standards through social media affects both genders equally, leading some boys to adopt dangerous practices such as excessive exercise or steroid use if they don’t feel good about their looks (Best, Joel, and Scott).
Social media has made young people compare themselves with unrealistic and perfect images displayed online. Manipulated and filtered pictures and videos on social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat often highlight only the most desirable qualities (Ling and Pederson). The outcome of this situation is that many young people end up with unreasonable beliefs about how they must act or look for others around them to accept them. The perception of one’s body among youth can be significantly shaped by influential figures in the entertainment industry or those with large followings on online platforms (Boxer). Juveniles hold them in high esteem as representations of charm and classiness and wish to be similar.
In like manner, research indicates that placing too much value on social media’s likes and followers can harmfully influence the emotional well-being of young individuals. Likes and follows are now used to quantify an individual’s popularity and value (Best, Joel, and Scott). Young people’s confidence may suffer if they believe that they must always present a flawless image of themselves. Rather than being genuine with their online presence, teenagers feel obligated to give a perfect appearance.
Online ads and messages commonly encourage unhealthy eating behaviors along with fast remedies like crash dieting. Images featuring underweight models and ads advocating for speedy weight reduction saturate the teenage population (Parks). Mental and physical health can be compromised if someone experiences issues with food intake, such as anorexia or bulimia.
Excessive social media usage directly links to teens’ unfavorable mental health outcomes and significantly affects their body image perception. People pressured into portraying a perfect image may experience negative effects like low self-esteem or eating disorders due to unrealistic beauty standards (Parks). Parents and educators can safeguard adolescents from these outcomes by conversing with them regarding the hazards of social media and providing constructive affirmations concerning their physical appearance. Social media networks are also accountable for monitoring the material they circulate and making progress toward fostering a welcoming and positive climate around body acceptance (Ling and Pederson). Appreciating one’s individuality should be instilled in teenagers, along with the understanding that beauty has varying degrees.
The negative impact that social media has on how teenagers perceive themselves physically can contribute to poor mental health. Young people’s susceptible mental states are at risk due to exposure to impractical beauty norms presented by social media, which can lead to harmful behaviors, including disordered eating patterns alongside negative moods (Kardaras). Teenagers should be motivated to allocate less time to social media activities and dedicate more time to building a stronger sense of identity. Helping children cultivate a favorable view of themselves and comprehend how social media influences their sense of value necessitates cooperation between parents and instructors (Boxer).
Best, Joel and Harris Scott. Making Sense of Social Problems: New Images, New Issues. New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2013.
Boxer, Wechler Brian . Influenced: The Impact of Social Media on Our Perception. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, 2022.
Kardaras, Nicholas. Digital Madness How Social Media Is Driving Our Mental Health Crisis-and How to Restore Our Sanity. New York: St. Martin’s Press., 2023.
Ling, Rich and E. Pederson. Mobile Communications: Re-Negotiation of the Social Sphere. New York: Springer London, 2005.
Parks, Peggy J. Social Media. New York: ReferencePoint Press, Inc., 2017.