Social Media and Body Image in College

Wake up, silent alarm, pick up phone, begin delving into one of the many social media applications downloaded to your handheld device. Put down phone, get out of bed, begin brushing teeth, open phone and select from one of the other media platforms. Reply to a comment, tweet your morning thoughts and post your “outfit of the day” for all of your seven hundred sixty-eight followers – and counting, to see. This process of picking up your phone, aimlessly scrolling through applications like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, will continue on throughout the rest of the day, into the evening and will only pause for a brief moment while you rest your eyes at night. If this continuous act was nothing more than physical, it would not be an issue that it is consuming the college population, but because it indirectly effects our mental health as vulnerable, teenagers, it needs to be addressed. As written in Researcher Perloff’s article, “media thinness portrayals can exert deleterious influences, ones with potentially serious psychological implications, in combination with certain individual difference factors, a point acknowledged even by scholars who doubt the pervasiveness of media effects” (Ferguson et al. 2011). There is no question that the constant viewing of photos and posts online for multiple hours of the day every day has an effect on a person’s mentality. With all of the posts regarding fitness and reaching the “perfect body,” it is easy for someone, specifically an already fragile student to get caught up in this thought that if you can only be one thing, you might as well be as fit and as “perfect,” as the people on your screen. Scrolling past these types of posts multiple times within each hour of a day makes it a habit, and without even knowing it many of us are subconsciously addressing these posts throughout our days when our phones are not in our hand. It is not that this phenomenon of negative repercussions has yet to be proven. A survey was conducted in the United States, in it over 800 college females were studied, specifically their use of social media. Following the research, it was concluded that about 10% of these females posted about body image, while close to 30% of them were commenting and discussing the topic. “More time of Facebook related to more frequent body and weight comparisons, more attention to the physical appearance of others, and more negative feelings about their bodies for all women” (Eckler, Petya, et al. 2017). This study proved that people, here specifically females, are inclined to focus in on body image ideals while scrolling through their social media. To think that this idea is covered by all ways possible on all media outlets, and that the majority of college students are on at least one of these outlets is unnerving. This strongly enforced belief of a “perfect body” is all over the internet, and all over our phones. Without us even realizing, it has become the center piece of our tables, staring back at us each time we think to have that extra snack, whispering in our ear every time we think to skip the gym just one more time. Body image is something many people deal with, it is the unfortunate reality of this world, but college students, being engulfed by social media are specifically victimized by this. It is constantly thrown at us, filling our phone screens each time we refresh our timelines and there is no way out of it. Undress, redress into pajamas, begin brushing teeth, open phone and once again delve into the hundreds of photos filing into your newsfeed. Rinse with water, turn off light, get into bed, pick phone back up and once more fall victim to this never-ending cycle that attacks each of us daily showing us the perfect body, the ideal weight leaving us with only that to dwell on when our phone is finally put down.

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