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The Dangers of Social Media: Eating Disorders in the 21st Century

One of things our generation is known for is our love and use of social media. It’s great, it really is. But we are also seeing the dark side of social media. We have seen how Facebook has the ability to destroy a teenager’s life, and now we are seeing how it contributes to the growing problem of eating disorders in teen girls and young women.

Thigh gaps: A space between your inner thighs when you stand up straight. It probably started as one picture that someone noticed, and put a name to. Now it’s a trend on Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Girls will post pictures of other girls’ thigh gaps, with captions essentially saying “I want to look like this.”

Why it’s bad: Most girls can not just get a natural thigh gap. In an article in Women’s Health Magazine, Dr. Vonda Wright, M.D. says, “Very few women have a large gap between their thighs. Thigh gaps really only happen through genetics—but even if you have wide hips, your legs can still touch if you have a lot of muscle.” Claire Mysko, the spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association adds with “Most women cannot achieve this look without extreme dieting or sometimes a full-blown eating disorder.”

Bikini bridges: Space between a girl’s stomach and her bikini when she lies down. First of all, um, why would you want a space where your crotch is? But let’s ignore how weird that is for a minute. It started on 4chan, an imageboard website, and was created by one user who used different social media sites to induce an explosion. They got two explosions: for and against.

Why it’s bad: Like I said, it’s creepy, and most pictures of it are angled so you’re staring at a girl’s crotch (under the bikini). I mean, how perverted is that? Lynn Greefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorder Foundation says in a New York Times article, “When someone HAS an eating disorder, they will view this as a challenge – do I have that bridge? It just promotes the sad competition in a person’s brain, as they never feel thin enough.”

The bottom line: There will always be girls who feel confident enough in their bodies to post pictures online (great, more power to you), and there will always be girls who compare their bodies to others. There is no way to get rid of eating disorders entirely. Humans, especially teens and young adults, are naturally competitive. They strive to be better than their peers, to look better. But we can decrease the number of girls with the problem by stopping social media trends like thigh gaps and bikini bridges, and stopping the idea that, “this is what perfect looks like.”

My two cents: The fact of the matter is that we need to stop setting the standards of beauty. You don’t need a thigh gap to be beautiful, and you don’t need a bikini bridge to be sexy. And all girls should be feeling confident enough in their bodies to post pictures online (keeping them appropriate, obviously). So we shouldn’t shame those that do, instead, we should encourage those that don’t think that they are also beautiful.

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3.

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Irina Kovari

U Mass Amherst

I'm a senior marketing major at UMass, with a passion for writing and equal rights. I'm on MASSPIRG at UMass, drink too much caffeine, and eat too much chocolate.
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