C/O Yoohyun Park

How social media has been fuelling eating disorders and body image issues 

cw: eating disorders, body dysmorphia, body image, self-harm 

With today’s society being submerged in a world of social media that advertises bodies that are considered “norms,” it can be quite easy for one to feel down about their appearance. Today, it is not a shock when young teens decide to undergo procedures such as lip injections that are supposedly meant to look “natural.” 

It begs the question: how can one be confident in their own body? We are constantly surrounded by images of individuals with body types that may be unachievable.  

For example, the current ideal for a woman’s appearance is deemed as someone with big lips, a tiny nose, long hair, thin waist and an hourglass figure. And don’t forget — men need to be jacked, tall and strong. 

In my own experience, it’s been interesting seeing the norms change in the media throughout the years. First, we had the Tumblr phase, in which eating disorders, self-harm and anorexia were considered the norm.  

It was a competition of who had it worse and whoever did was the most “beautiful.” These were the standards around the same time I was in middle school.  

Then Instagram came in. At first, it was lighthearted but as the years went on, it became more toxic.  

With the rising popularity of editing apps such as FaceTune, it can become immensely difficult to discern what is real and what is fake.  

Popular Instagram models and the Kardashian family have set a “norm” for what beautiful women should look like, even though their beauty may have been attained through personal training and cosmetic surgery.  

Due to these overbearing images and social norms, the terms body positivity and body neutrality have become more and more prominent. 

In a broad sense, body positivity is loving all bodies, no matter their size, race or anything in-between. Body neutrality is accepting your body — recognizing its remarkable abilities and non-physical characteristics instead of focusing on your physical appearance alone. 

For example, let’s say I’m talking about my thighs. From a body positivity perspective, I love my thighs, cellulite and all. From a body neutrality lens, I would simply love my thighs because they help me walk. 

While these terms have become more common and helped many, they’ve also negatively affected some people. The body positivity trend has also led to negative consequences such as skinny shaming, which need to be avoided if we truly desire to treat all bodies equally.  

Our society also needs to understand that a certain body isn’t the picture of health and having another body type doesn’t mean you’re inherently unhealthy.  

Being healthy is allowing yourself to eat what you’d like while balancing a lifestyle that allows you to receive all the nutrients you need. It’s learning how to take care of your mind and body. It’s creating healthy habits.  

And it is okay to not love certain things. 

It takes time — a lifetime, really. But be patient with yourself and the world and notice all the things that you were given, notice what they do and appreciate them. Practice gratitude towards yourself and others and everything else will slowly follow. 

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