• Claire Smith

The Impact of Social Media

Social media is an important part of the way people engage with the world around them. I am exploring this to understand the role that social media plays in relation to our mental health and wellbeing. I want to explore the effects of social media on body image, effective use of social media to support body esteem and to understand young people’s online media practices. I have never been a big social media user but I am learning that it has a huge impact on us and day to day life.


What is the impact on body image through social media?


Research shows that there is a link between spending more time on social media platforms and body image concerns. However, brief exposure does not seem to negatively impact women’s body image in general. Instead, general browsing of social media only appears to impact the body image of young women who have a greater tendency to compare their appearance to others suggesting that some people may be more vulnerable to the effects of social media than others.


As well as attractive images, there is a trend on social media to post ‘fitspiration’ images, which are designed to motivate people to exercise and eat healthily. Although these images may motivate people towards a healthier lifestyle, viewing these images can also increase women’s body dissatisfaction, particularly when women compare their body to the thin and lean bodies in these images. So is there a way we can inspire people to be healthy through social media?


What can we do to help prevent body image issue?


Because young people spend so much time on social media, it is important that we find ways to reduce potentially harmful influences that it may have on their wellbeing. Social media is so ingrained in our society that it may not be effective to suggest that people stop using social media altogether (although spending less time on these platforms may be helpful). Maybe educating young people on appropriate social media use and to increase awareness that social media may not always reflect reality will encourage people to not compare themselves and look at the positive influences rather than the negative.

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