Social media threatens teens’ self image

The only thing I remember from quarantine were short breaks from the confines of my computer screen. Hundreds of hours of my life were spent scrolling through instagram and Tiktok feeds, staring at the fittest, richest, and most successful teens who seemed to thrive despite the burgeoning pandemic.

I lost weight exponentially nearing the end of the lockdown, and, upon reflection, I am troubled to uncover these hours of comparison were the reason why.

Like myself, many teens reported that their perception of themselves has diminished since the beginning of the pandemic. In fact, A United Kingdom parliamentary survey of 8,000 teens found that 58% of respondents felt worse about their physical appearance during lockdown.

The extended time at home allowed teens, whose minds are still developing, to only observe other people through the lens of perfection. This inevitably leads to comparison between the manicured lives of online influencers and your own.

I started eating healthier and exercising in an attempt to replicate these ideals I was fed through prolonged use of social media, and it ended up working.

However, these desires to obtain the beauty standard can manifest itself into extremely harmful habits.

Forbes reported there has been a 25% increase in teen eating disorder patients since the dawn of the pandemic. They also found the National Eating Disorder hotline received a 40% increase in calls since March 2020.

While health anxiety and lack of structure were common triggers of increased eating disorders, the vast majority of teens expressed that isolation in combination with extended social media use was the main cause of their eating disorders.

This problem has gotten so large that it has transformed into a primary element of the pandemic zeitgeist.

Teen celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo wrote in their songs about social media’s influence on their self-image, entire Tiktok subcultures about diet tips emerged to cater to teens’ insecurities, and giant social media companies like Facebook were chastised by Congress because of their platform’s effects on mental health.

I hope the new revelations about social media’s toll on the teenage brain can be applied to better future teens’ mental health. For example, accessible mental health services and diverse advertising and media could reduce the amount of teens with self-image issues.

I have also realized that I need to limit my social media use to reduce my risk for an eating disorder. Everything on social media is inherently what the creator wants me to see, so I will inevitably have an unrealistic perspective on other peoples’ lives.