Psychological Impacts Social Media Can Have on Body Appearance Obsession

8 mins read

Over the past decade, social media seems to have taken over our everyday lives. It seems inconceivable to think that it was only ten years ago Twitter truly got going. Now, on average, teenagers will typically spend up to 9 hours on social media a day. That’s a shocking amount, to say the least. So, what are these screen-eyed teens doing with their 9 hours a day? Scrolling through social media feeds, posting a status to their timeline and browsing their favourite celebrity’s Instagram to see what they’re up to, of course. 

Not only does this aimless browsing have an effect on their physical health (it can be damaging for your eyes spending that much time staring at a screen), but it also impacts their mental health. Depression rates for young people have dramatically increased over the last few years. Some attribute this to social media.


Do You Have a Social Media Addiction?

Believe it not, addiction to social media is a legitimate medical diagnosis. Smartphones have so much so become the norm in many people’s lives that they find themselves practically attached to them. Then, because social media is always at your disposal, it’s tempting to flip between apps several times within an hour. According to research by The Manifest, 86% of people use social media at least once per day. Of those 72% use it multiple times a day. This can transform into an addiction, causing a knock-on effect as it takes over other aspects of your life. Social interaction with others offline, your general working life and other family activities may all be affected. 


Changing Emotions

Social media has various benefits, including being able to connect and interact with others around you. However, when you’re online, you’re also opening up yourself to a darker world of verbal abuse and comments. Cyberbullying is an alarmingly common problem with social media, particularly for students. So-called ‘keyboard warriors’ and ‘trolls’ feel a sense of freedom online, as most of the time, they can’t be reprimanded for horrible comments. 

Many young people have become a victim of trolling over the internet, which can severely damage their emotions, causing them stress and anxiety. Instagram does have a feature for turning off comments, but this does affect the user’s overall experience of the app – which should be a light-hearted, enjoyable one. 


Encouraging Body Dysmorphia

Body dysmorphia is a condition that’s frequently linked to depression. Essentially, it means a person sees their body as being severely flawed and are prepared to go to extreme measures to fix or hide what they believe to be “wrong” with their body. Often this is completely blown out of proportion, and what they see in the mirror may not reflect what others see. It already affects around 1.7% to 2.4% of the population, with this being roughly equal distribution between men and women. 

Social media can definitely impact and offset body dysmorphia as users are presented with the idea of what a “perfect body” is. It can trigger obsessive behaviour, including over-excising and under-eating in order to achieve weight goals. Not only is this linked to depression, but sometimes it can even lead to institutionalisation or suicide. Many professional therapists still fail to diagnose it, which means it often goes undertreated. 


Getting Caught in a Vicious Cycle of Jealousy 

If you’re aspiring to be more like somebody you see on the internet, you can never truly be happy or fulfilled. Moreover, comparing yourself to friends who have more “likes” on their picture than you also isn’t a healthy habit. People often admit that seeing other people’s tropical vacations and perfectly presented children makes them envious. This jealousy can provoke other negative feelings, which can turn into a vicious cycle. No matter how happy you feel, you’ll always feel like there are others who are happier and living a better life than you.  This is extremely unhealthy for your mental health, as you’ll never feel as though you’re good enough. 


A Rise in Cosmetic Surgery

This obsession with looking perfect has lead to a spike in young women going under the knife. In fact, it could be said that cosmetic surgeons have benefited the most from people’s desire for the perfect face and body. Nose jobs, breast enhancements, facial fillers and lip fillers, cosmetic treatments are becoming more normalised in society. 

This means that social media has the power to actually persuade people to undergo invasive treatments in order to change their appearance. It begs the question; would these people have undergone surgery if social media didn’t exist? When you’re not presented with “influencers” to compare yourself to, there’s little reason to think that you’d need to change anything about your face or body. In this sense, the physiological impact of social media is astonishing. 

It’s been suggested that high profile celebrities also have a responsibility to be transparent with their followers about what work they’ve had done. This could prevent more easily-influenced younger girls making the drastic decision to have cosmetic surgery before they’re ready.


In Conclusion

To conclude, social media undoubtedly has a psychological impact on those who use it. Numerous sources state that these platforms are to blame for instilling insecurities in younger people. As one researcher on children’s obsession put it, “the problem is that this ‘cyber self’ can become increasingly distant from the real-world self, and it can become harder to live up to the perfect image of self that is projected online.” 

On the other hand, that’s not to say that social media doesn’t have its benefits. It has connected long lost families, started relationships and allowed long-distance friends to keep in touch with each other’s lives. The main problem with social media is the addiction factor. So, is social media a people problem and not an actual app problem? Before social media was a viable profession, users weren’t afraid to post funny videos and embarrassing snaps to share with family and friends. Now, however, there’s more pressure to present a certain image and professionals such as cosmetic surgery Manchester based practises will check mental stability before performing any surgeries.