Changing Your Social Media for a Better… | Center for Growth Therapy

Changing Your Social Media for a Better Relationship with Your Body Image

Suzanna — Intern therapist

Social Media and Body Image (Body Image Therapy in Philadelphia)

Getting on any social media platform these days will inundate you with information. Dance trends, fun facts, advocacy, social justice, art, interior design, and sports. You name any topic, and it's out there on Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook. Thanks to the algorithms of these programs, we get exposed to content from a wide range of topics.

Maybe you're seeing pictures of celebrities' weight loss or gain from gossip sites or news sources. These sources often pick apart changes in celebrities' weight, which leads you to wonder if others do the same to you. You could also see #fitspo or "fit inspiration," where influencers show their fitness lifestyles and routines. These, plus many other corners of social media platforms, can contribute to dissatisfaction with our bodies.

For example, social media's fitness and healthy eating corners are often exclusively focused on weight and size. Other areas of social media may reinforce notions about "preferred" body size and shape through the body shapes portrayed in posts, such as fashion blogs. It can be hard to get on these social media platforms and not feel discouraged or displeased about your size and body image.

In modern society, much of our social life occurs on social media. You post pictures on Instagram to share with your friends and see their lives. You see other classmates or friends of friends' lives too through social media. At your fingertips, you have access to anyone who has social media, which will be most other teens, adults, influencers, and celebrities. Access to so much media for consumption sets us up for comparison, especially concerning body sizes and shapes.

We can feel worse when we exit the apps and put our phones down. Our imperfections seem more significant. Our weight seems unsatisfactory. We don't like the shape of our bodies anymore. What can we do to help ourselves feel better? One of the first steps we can take to begin healing is changing our feeds for a better relationship with our body.

How is Social Media Hurting Me? (Body Image Therapy in Philadelphia)

The connection aspect of social media is what makes it feel good. Being in touch with people you love and care about, close and far, is what makes us continue to open the apps on our phones. However, there is a much darker side to social media. Seeing the best-selected content of everyone's life, often edited and beautified, will bring you down. If you aren't 100% certain of who you are (and most of us aren't), it can feel discouraging to see all these people who seemingly have their ducks in a row. As humans, we're constantly changing. Figuring out what makes you you during your phase of life is good exploration. It can be messy, you can change your mind, and that's normal! However, online, everyone can appear composed and put together. It can make your normal seem abnormal. You may even fall into the habit of trying to keep up your perfect online persona. Social media can hold us back from living our truth or fully appreciating who we are.

Comparison is especially true when it comes to comparison on social media. Seeing photos of our friends, classmates, and celebrities can make us hate our body size. Social media allows us to focus on aspects of appearances that we may overlook during everyday life and may have us compare ourselves to edited images. The Tripartite model hypothesizes that three sources emphasize the importance of appearance and desirable body image to us: parents, peers, and media (Thompson et al., 1999). Social media provides a platform for us to consume content of our peers and media constantly. Whereas peer influences may have previously only been limited to school and media to watching TV, we now have those sources at all times in our pocket. Therefore, it is sensible that social media impacts our body image more than ever.

Big brand companies also like to ensure that we feel imperfect in our bodies, so we buy their products. Many companies use social media to target your insecurities and get you to buy their products. Advertising interweaves itself with most modern-day social media platforms. Most platforms require us to view advertisements even to use the app. However, advertisers and companies will also pay celebrities, everyday influencers, and internet personalities to push products centered around ideas of "appealing" physical appearance, such as makeup, clothes, and weight loss products. Being in the public "eye," these celebrities, influencers, and internet personalities' careers revolve around appearances and looks. It is their job to appear conventionally attractive at all times. Therefore, these individuals spend lots of money and time on appearance, a position most of us do not have the luxury to do. Companies want you to link the star's appearance to their product and buy it to boost sales.

Has Social Media Hurt Me?

Ask these questions to determine if social media has harmed your body image.

  • Do I often compare my body to the body of my peers or stars I see on social media?

  • Do I feel bad about myself or my body after going on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, etc.?

  • Do I follow accounts that make me feel bad about myself on purpose?

  • Do I feel the need to follow certain accounts for "inspiration" to change myself?

  • Do I think about body shapes and sizes I see on social media often after I get off?

How to Change Your Feed (Body Image Therapy in Philadelphia)

While reading this article, you may have found things that resonated with your experience on social media or noted how you feel bad about your body when coming off social media. In a perfect world, if social media makes us feel bad, we could be able to remove ourselves entirely from social media. However, that can sometimes feel (and be) impossible in our modern society. However, there are specific actions you can take to alter your social media experience.

  • Limiting words, phrases, songs, and trends
    • Certain words and hashtags can lend themselves to content contributing to body dissatisfaction. You may also need to limit your feed from songs and trends, especially on TikTok, where certain songs or trends may focus entirely on body size or shape. You can go into settings on different platforms and type in words, phrases, or songs that you have noticed lend themselves to posts that trigger upset feelings for you. The platforms will automatically filter out content from your feed and recommended posts.

  • Unfollowing and Limiting your Followers and Who You Follow
    • Our feed shapes our social media experience. If we don't see something, we aren't thinking about it much. Consider what kind of accounts you follow and what they make you think about. If these accounts don't make you feel good, unfollow them! If you worry about what people who follow you will think of your posts, remove those followers. Doing what's best for you on your social media will make the experience much more enjoyable and leave you with less negative self-talk when you are not on the apps.

  • Following Positive Body Image Sources
    • While taking accounts that affect you negatively may be part of the equation, it can be equally beneficial to bring in accounts that help convey good messages regarding body image and overall happiness. Bringing diverse body shapes, sizes, and appearances in your feed can help reshape your values regarding body shape into a realistic, reasonable perception. There are a lot of accounts out there. Looking through hashtags about mental health can be beneficial for finding these accounts. Some accounts that may be an excellent place to start:
      • @sonyareneetaylor

      • @theantidietplan

      • @veggiesandchocolate

      • @fatwomenofcolor

      • @meganjaynecrabbe

      • @antidietriotclub

      • @bodyimage_therapist

      • @thefatsextherapist

      • @sydneylbell

      • @reynisima

      • @hannahtalksbodies

  • Expand Your Social Media
    • Likewise, follow accounts that focus on topics you are interested in. Topics could be sports, music, art, or decorating. Whatever gets you going creatively and brings you joy to look at, seek out and follow those accounts to make your social media experience more creative and less critical.

  • Decrease the amount of time you are on any type of social media and increase the amount of time spent with people in person.

Evaluating the Changes

Try your new social media out for two weeks with the edits and adjustments. Some questions to ask yourself to see how this experience worked for you:

  • When I spend less time on social media how do I feel?

  • How do I feel now in comparison to before changing my feed for a better relationship with my body?

  • What do I find myself thinking about when I am on social media?

  • Am I thinking about social media when I am not on it? If so, what kinds of thoughts are coming up?

  • Do I think about my body size, shape, or appearance when engaging with social media?

  • When I am using social media what am I focused on? How has this exercise shifted my attention?

Starting on the Path

By following these steps, you can begin to reshape your social media into a more gratifying and uplifting experience. By creating this new social media experience, you are starting a healing process and reinforcing different outlooks on body image than what our society may push. Know that even by controlling your feed, things may sometimes slip in. Likewise, changing our social media for a better relationship with our body is only the first step. Society will still push messages that tear your appearance and body image down. People will still edit their photos and push ideas of perfection. Many more steps exist on the path of healing your relationship with your body, but many can begin to find relief in changing their social media.

Schedule an Appointment Now To Work With A Therapist With Specialized Knowledge in Body Image in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Santa Fe, Mechanicsville

If you would like more support on your path to a healthier, more enjoyable relationship with your body, please schedule an appointment with one of our trained therapists.. Our therapists can help shape and guide your journey with evidence-based approaches. Help is only a phone call away. Call (215) 922-LOVE, extension 100. You can also self schedule a counseling appointment at thecenterforgrowth.com/therapy/schedule-an-appointment. A therapist at the Center for Growth will be more than happy to help you on this journey. We have offices located in Society Hill, Philadelphia; Fairmount, Philadelphia; Ocean City, New Jersey; Mechanicsville, Virginia; and Santa Fe, New Mexico that offer in-person treatment. We also see clients virtually from Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, New Mexico, Florida, and Georgia.


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