Social Media's Impact on Body Image

As a 21-year-old woman who spends a generous amount of time on social media platforms, I have contemplated to what extent social media influences the way we perceive our body image. Though I have my own thoughts and speculations, I was curious as to what others think on this topic. For the duration of 24 hours, I posted a survey on both my Snapchat and Facebook to gain insight into my family and friends’ (both men and women) thoughts and opinions. The survey consisted of only three required multiple-choice questions and one optional short answer response. The short answer question asked to give any input on social media’s impact on body image. The questions consisted of: 

How often do you think about your body’s image?

Are you happy with the way you look?

How does social media affect your view of yourself?

The results were somewhat surprising to me, but at the same time weren’t too surprising at all. I had 71 participants in the survey and 31 of those gave their personal opinion of the topic in short answer form. I thought I would share the statistics that were eye-opening to me and might be to you as well.

Out of the 71 participants, 39.4% of the participants said they think about their body image ALL THE TIME, and 42% said they think about it often. With that information, I gathered that people are spending a good portion of their day being consumed with their thoughts about what they look like. In the next question, 47.9% of the participants said they are only kind of happy with the way they look while 38% are not happy with the way they look. This showed me that out of 71 of these participants, very few of them actually are happy and satisfied with the way they look. Lastly, 83.1% of participants said that social media negatively affects how they view themselves. 

With these results, I really began to analyze. Is there really a correlation between social media and body image? I believe that there is. For some people, social media might not be the enemy for gaining self-love and self-acceptance. In many instances, social media has helped raise awareness for body positivity and been an activist that every body is beautiful. Most of the participants said things along the line that “social media makes them feel like they aren’t skinny or fit enough” or they can’t live up to “unrealistic expectations and standards'' set by the media. If they have abs and low body fat percentage, they are considered too skinny and lacking curves. If they are muscular, they are considered manly and if they are curvy, they aren’t skinny enough. It seems like a never-ending cycle. The same standards surround men as well. They must possess a certain body type or reach a certain point in muscle mass to be considered manly. However, others said they believed that social media motivated them to get in shape, work out, and eat better. They believed that social media can be used to find healthy food recipes or work out routines. Looking at the images of people with their ideal body pushed them to improve. 

All in all, I think social media’s impact on someone’s portrayal of their body image can vary. To many, it is extremely harmful, but to some it can be beneficial. There are many ways people can reduce the negative effects social media has on their view of themselves.

Statistics show that 91% of women, specifically, are unhappy with their bodies. Little do they know, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type that is portrayed on social media. It is important to remember that photoshop exists and is used by many on social media. It is also important not to worship your favorite celebrities and models. It is not realistic to believe that you need or should look like Kylie Jenner. Another way to reduce negative effects is to limit the amount of time you spend on social media. Spending too much time can lead to overconsumption and overall isn’t healthy for anyone’s mentality. 

Lastly, it is important to remember that healthy looks different on everyone. It is important to focus on healthy eating habits and daily exercise, not what you look like in the mirror. At the end of the day, all you can do is your best. Focus on improving your health, not looking a certain way. Use social media as a valuable resource in improving upon yourself. You are the only YOU there is and that is your superpower!