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Social Media and its Negative Effects on Body Image


Never before has the focus on body image been as prevalent as it is today. We live in an age of social media with an abundance of Instagram stories, Snapchat filters, Twitter feeds, Facebook threads… the list goes on. Sadly a large number of the pictures and images posted on social networks focus on body image and the pressure for people to resemble their idols and those they follow online is immense. Many youths idolise individuals who are not famous as actors, singers, sports personalities or musicians, but are famed for being reality stars.

There is also the growing trend for plastic surgery among this group which is emphasised by the images they post and market of themselves. Although many pictures posted on social media are heavily edited, the surgical procedures that many influencers have had are obvious. Whether it be lip fillers, breast implants, botox or bum implants, the message is: “If there is something you don’t like about yourself, change it! If you don’t like your nose, then get a nose job. Excess fat? Get liposuction. Even chin implants are becoming increasingly common, especially among those who regularly receive lip fillers.

Of major concern when considering the rising trend for cosmetic surgery is the way in which social media is making this seem ‘the norm’. It is almost like telling impressionable young adults that if there is something about their appearance they are unhappy with, then money and surgery can fix it. The fact that many ordinary individuals cannot possibly afford elective surgery only adds to the despair they are already experiencing around their body image. With eating disorders on the increase, many cases are linked to the ongoing pursuit of the perfect figure which in turn is linked to the array of unrealistic images on social media.

The message that really needs promoting today is one of a positive body image — accepting the way we look as unique individuals and embracing quirks or perceived imperfections. We should be highlighting the benefits of developing a healthy level of self-esteem instead of sending the message that surgery is a quick fix or the answer to insecurities. Ultimately it is what is on the inside that is important, including how we accept and treat others. If you are not comfortable with yourself as a person, then the pursuit of physical perfection will never be enough.