Social media plays a big part in everybody’s life, whether they know it or not. Since the early 2000’s when Myspace became a hit, that’s when people started taking selfies and uploading pictures online for everyone to see. Since then, the social media world has expanded to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and many other platforms. Young adults can upload whatever they want, filtered and edited any way they want, for the people they know and people who look at their page to have this ideal image of them.
The rapid growth of social media on college campuses over the recent years has changed the dynamics of the college student experience. In classrooms, dorms, cafes, students are typically found with their heads down, swiping and tapping their phone screen on Instagram and Snapchat and Tweeting on Twitter. While walking around Oswego, you will constantly see students looking at their phones, whether, on social media or not, they are engaging in a social platform. The increased presence on social media has made a profound impact on college students, both positive and negative. While researching this topic, I interviewed a few college students to see their outlook on social media and body image. I also interviewed one former college student to compare how the impact of social media then vs. the impact of social media now.
“How often do you find yourself checking social media throughout the day?”
Michaela Mullen (sophomore at Hudson Valley Community College): “Probably every 5 minutes, I’m usually checking Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and my messages and sometimes I go on VSCO if I’m really bored.”
Taylor West (junior at Clemson University): “Depends on how I’m feeling that day, Facebook and Instagram I don’t look at until I go to bed. Text messages I check every 3 minutes. When I’m on my phone not, not doing anything else I’m usually on Twitter and Instagram scrolling and liking stuff.”
Stephanie Rose (SUNY Cobleskill Alum): “Once every 10 minutes, I go on Instagram and Snapchat and sometimes I check my email.”
“Do you find yourself on social media while in class?”
Michaela: “Yes all the time, I’m on Instagram and Twitter.”
Taylor: “Yes, in class I go on Twitter and Instagram, I send Snapchats but I’m not usually opening others in the class.”
Steph: (while at work) “It’s all I do at work, and when I was in college I was always online shopping and looking at social media.”
Social media has had a lasting impact on the lives of students and young adults. In the age of smartphones and constant social media uploading, posting and updating, people’s lives have become invested with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. On social media, the world is taught the “unrealistic” and “achievable” beauty and body standards perpetuated by mass media. Since before we know it, women have also looked up to models on runways, in magazines, movies; they are constantly comparing how they look to those models and it reflects how they feel. Nowadays, not only girls but guys too, are able to download apps to make themselves skinnier, have whiter teeth, abs, and everything else they could possibly want. Television, magazines, Instagram, Facebook, and all the advertisements do not represent real bodies and women and young adults look up to these photoshopped, retouched, redone models. Exposure to the unrealistic “beauty” can have a negative effect on body image and self-esteem.
“Has social media influenced you to change your appearance? In other words, do you find yourself doing makeup like the people you follow, dressing like the influencers you follow (trends), and eating differently?”
Michaela: “I wouldn’t say I eat differently because of social media, but definitely the makeup and clothes part. If I see on Instagram people doing their makeup differently or a certain way or wear a certain outfit, I try to copy them and go out and find an outfit to look like them.”
Taylor: “I think the dressing one because it introduces you to hop on trends.”
Steph: “On occasion, I eat badly because I watch food vlogs. I used to care when I was in college about 3 years ago but I stopped caring what I look like now that I’m out of college.”
“Do you ever find yourself comparing the way you look to influencers and celebrities on social media?”
Michaela: “Yes, because famous people always look their best and have the nicest clothes, hair, makeup, gestures and I want people to see me like the way they see famous people”
Taylor: “Yup, usually my body.”
Steph: “I mean… who doesn’t?”
The platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat deliver tools that allow teens to earn approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others, which usually model celebrities. Rachel Simmons from Time Magazine talked about a study that found people who put themselves out on social media sites like Facebook are more likely to link their self-worth to their looks. Interestingly, while girls report more body image disturbance and disordered eating than boys-studies have shown both can be equally damaged by social media.
“When you post something, do you edit your teeth, eyes or any other part of your body? Do you use filters? Why?”
Michaela: “I’m a firm believer in editing, I don’t like my flaws and I don’t want people to see my flaws. I edit my body and other parts of me in pictures so my followers can’t notice my flaws.”
Taylor: “Yeah I filter the pictures to make certain things pop. I edit them so people wouldn’t know that things are flawed and I look like Spongebob.”
Steph: “I used filters but I don’t edit anything, when I was in college I did 100%.”
As a way to counteract the negative social media influence on body image, is to spend money on things that are good for you, like healthy foods, and fitness equipment, and focusing on school work, instead of spending money on things Instagram celebrities and models promote, like diet pills, diet shakes, and diet foods. Practice positive talk and surround yourself with positive people. This ties into people’s self-esteem.
“How has social media over the years affected your self-esteem?”
Steph: “It’s made me feel negative about myself mentally and physically.”
Michaela: “I think social media has affected the way I look at myself in a negative way and sometimes makes me feel that I have to live up to a certain standard, and where I want everyone to think highly of me as they think of the girls online. The way people view you or think about you honestly shouldn’t be that big of a concern in life, but I think social media has not only made me feel a different way but other girls as well.”
Taylor: “Social media has brought down my self-esteem because I am constantly comparing myself to other girls online, and Instagram models. Girls have always had an ideal image to try to obtain but now that we have social media, it’s a constant reminder all day every day when you open the app .”
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