The Danger of Social Media. Are Filters and Photoshop Destroying Our Self-Esteem?

Mar 16, 2021 | Blog

Is your social media feed causing you to body shame yourself? Here are some warning signs that your social media is unhealthy for your mind, and body. Why it’s happening, and how to stop it.

Social media. We love it. We hate it. But we can’t. Stop. Scrolling. It’s ok. Really,  we ALL do it. Apps are created with this exact intent in mind. An endless feed of information and images we find interesting enough to catch our eye. A feed that legitimately never ends! Have you ever run out of videos on Tik Tok? I didn’t think so. But I’m not here to break down the addictive quality of these platforms. I’m here to talk about the influence some of these apps and online advertisements are making on the consumer, and why it is so dangerous to our mental health.

The mindless scroll has become a part of some of our daily routines. Before bed, during our coffee breaks, our work breaks, and bathroom breaks. But a lot of us aren’t even paying attention to half of the content we see. Or are we? The targeted ads, the swimsuit companies we followed for the 10% discount we never used, the entire “for you page” of ppl and accounts we don’t know. You may not feel like you’re paying very much attention to them, but the truth is, they are probably more impactful than you realize.

We buy things online because they look perfect on the model. We’ve probably tried one or two fad diets, juice cleanses, or even just a workout because the person promoting it looked AMAZING. We’ve stopped and stared at beautiful couples in perfectly posed photographs and wished it was us. It seems harmless at times. Because everyone is doing it, seriously, everyone. But the reality is, it’s not always harmless. The constant reminders of the things we don’t have or wish we did are INCREDIBLY harmful to your mental health and here’s why.

Let start with the problem…

I want to talk about something I have dubbed, “The comparison complex.” The almost unavoidable habit of body shaming yourself while comparing what you look like to the images & people we see every day online, and on TV.

Most of us have been aware of the negative effects of unrealistic advertising since way before the dawn of social media. Runways, catalogs, Hollywood, and the elite-dominated pop culture magazines with wafer-thin frames, still fighting to fit into the standard size 0 sample size. And who can forget the famous Kate Moss line, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” It’s no wonder, I can trace my own body shaming tendencies into my middle school years. When anything above a size 2 at Abercrombie & Fitch was deemed “unacceptable”, and I was officially introduced to the word “muffin top” by our Queen B mean girls.

It’s about d**n time

Fast forward 20 years, we are beginning to see companies make statements with inclusive marketing campaigns. Celebrities are speaking out about the unhealthy expectations of the fashion community. And #BodyPositive is trending on multiple platforms. But the negativity around our body image has not gone away, and the influence continues to reach many of us through the thousands of new platforms technology has introduced to our generation. Sure, we’re working on it. But it’s far from fixed. And the introduction of photoshop, snap chat filters and the Kardashian-type celebrities that pop culture worships are only setting us back further.

What’s really going on

This is where the Comparison Complex comes in.  Our childhood tormentors may have long since retired from their cruel assaults, but have we continued to plague ourselves? Why can’t we stop watching what everyone else is doing? When did we become our own worst critics? Who is to blame? And how do we stop?

When you allow outside influences to

  1. Make you feel negative about yourself
  2. Set unrealistic goals for your health
  3. Deprive you of self-esteem
  4. Cause you to under-appreciate yourself
  5. Crave the things someone else has
  6. Encourage you to make unhealthy/drastic diet changes

You have officially become your own bully. We can sit and point fingers at others all day for their negative effects on our self-worth. Or we can stop blaming others, and do something about our relationships with ourselves. There is absolutely nothing uncommon about struggling with any of these issues and concerns. Do you know why influencers use filters and photoshop on their Instagrams? Because they feel they have to. Because they have been influenced by someone else who made them feel less than worthy without it.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

Every one of us is going round in a circle comparing ourselves against someone, who is most likely comparing themselves to someone different. We’re all assuming the grass is greener in different pant sizes, bra sizes if we were taller if our legs were leaner if we could just lose 20 lbs. But these measurements, these goals, and aspirations set by doctored images and ppl who make their money by sharing photos are NOT the definition of health. Abs do not define “health”. Size 2 does not define “health”. Instagram, is NOT reality. Photoshop is not real. And, the measurements you were born with, the unique characteristics that make you, you, are absolutely perfect.

It is time to retrain our brains and learn how to love ourselves again. You are beautiful, exactly as you are. But I guarantee that is the least interesting thing about you.

WHERE TO START

Now here’s the most important part. Take a moment, the next time you are perusing your favorite platform and think about what you are seeing the most. Take the time to truly access how the content is making you feel. Not feeling great? Let’s change that.

Things you can do to stop the cycle of body-shaming YOURSELF.

  1. Tailor your feed – Take a few moments every time you find yourself on social media to cleanse your feed of profiles that no longer serve you. And pay attention to those that make you feel good, make you laugh, or healthily educated you.
  2. Find your unique style – Forget about following every fashion trend that hits the runway. Dress your body how you feel comfortable, and find the shapes that work for YOU. I can’t tell you how long I suffered through outfits that I just did not feel good in, for the sake of fashion! You can’t be comfortable in your body if you’re not comfortable in your clothes!
  3. MOVE –  Find a source of exercise that makes you feel good! Making a workout routine is only going to happen if you LIKE the workout! Grab a class pass. Come to one of our donation-based community classes in your area. Try a bunch of workouts, and find what works for you. Physical activity has been scientifically proven to directly associate with self-esteem and body image! Win, win!
  4. REBUILD – Find & follow accounts by influencers supporting body inclusivity, mental health, or ANYTHING that you find influential and positive for your life. A few of my favorite body-inclusive Instagramers.
    1. @Danaemercer -an influencer showing you the behind the scenes of how they’re really getting those “perfect photos”
    2. @PSYouGotThis – Model turned marathon runner with a body inclusive activewear line and an inspirational message for athletes of all sizes
    3. @ZachMiko – A rare male voice in the #bodypositive movement. “To me, body positivity is learning to love and respect who you are right now,” he says. “Not tomorrow, not after a diet, or a workout plan, or losing or gaining 50 pounds. It’s loving your body right now in the very moment because right now your body is beautiful, it is amazing, and it is you. Love every muscle, every roll, every curve.”
  5. Snack happy – Focus on your relationship with food. Food shame is a wildly common problem and can lead to major mental and physical issues if not acknowledged and treated. One bad meal will not make you fat. And, one “healthy” meal will not make you skinny. Find balance with foods that you enjoy and nourish your body.
  6. Talk it out – Find a friend, family member, or a trusted psychiatrist to share your thoughts with. Sometimes just releasing the negativity from your brain in the form of open communication will relieve some of its weight on you. Or, give you a different perspective on the issue.
  7. Find gratitude – Take time to appreciate your unique self. Find something you truly appreciate or like about yourself and take a mental or physical note of that appreciation. Tape it to your mirror, write it down. Force yourself to remember what you LOVE about yourself every day. Focus on your relationship with your reflection, and keep working on it.

    Rebuilding a body-positive relationship with yourself is not always easy. But I promise you, it will be worth it. The process of letting go of our own fears and insecurities about looking the way society has sculpted the “ideal” takes time. It’s about loving your body now, treating it right through movement and nourishment, trusting the process, and not punishing it for the way it looks. Do I feel 100% every day? Absolutely not. But I have found and practice ways, every day, to remind myself of my worth, beauty, and strength within the body I was given. And when I want to compare myself to someone, I compare myself to yesterday and make choices to continue to build, appreciate and strengthen myself within the confines of my personal goals. Not someone else’s.

    Only you can change the way you feel about yourself. So take the control back, make the moves, do the work, and let’s all remember how to love ourselves the best we can. With respect, with love, with appreciation. Give yourself time, and grace in this journey, trust the process and know you are never ever alone.

    about the author

    Say 👋 to Ashley!

    Ashley Conner is a Denver native, with a lifelong passion for travel, cooking, snowboarding, music, and storytelling. What started as an interest in poetry has blossomed into blogging about causes she cares about, like the one in this post! New to the STRENGTH IN THE CITY team, expect to see more amazing content from her in the near future! 

    When she’s not authoring content about health and wellness, you can find her on the mountains snowboarding the day away… If you can catch her!

    To follow Ashley’s adventures, cooking, and life in Denver check out @AshleyyConner on Instagram.