Has social media got you feeling not-so-great about your body? You’re not alone. Research shows that social media increases the release of dopamine in our brains. This makes us feel good but at the same time, also makes us feel less satisfied. We feel great because we get noticed (via likes & comments) because we compare our lives to others. This includes how we look, what we’re doing, what we own and who we’re with. Often, people don’t think too much about how our newsfeeds work. It’s important to remember that WE CHOOSE whom we follow and unfollow. The more we like or engage with a profile/topic or issue, the more we see it in our news feed. So, just like our homes, our social media feeds need a seasonal clean-out. This is why we’re sharing a step-by-step guide on how to make your social media feed more body positive.
The average person spends 2.5 hours each day on social media. Across your life, that’s more than 5 whole years spent just on social. We know our young Aussies in particular are spending more and more time on social media platforms, which was likely enhanced when the online world became our school, workplace and socialisation during the pandemic.
Is it any wonder how social media influences how we feel, think and act? Unfortunately, studies have shown that it’s not making us feel any better about ourselves, particularly if we’re not conscious and vigilant about who we follow and unfollow. Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media use and an increased risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. And we can thank the comparison trap for this.
Increasingly at SS Diets, we’re seeing how social media can affect our client’s perception of their bodies and their relationship with food. This connection isn’t just in our clinic, there is now significant scientific evidence highlighting the impact social media has on negative body image and eating disorder risk. This relationship is much stronger with social media engagement than traditional media exposure (such as billboard/shop front advertising, magazines and TV).
Sure, most Australians cognitively know the images they see are capitalising on dramatic lighting, makeup and filters but there are other issues. Influencers post images of “clean eating”, which often include unrealistic and unbalanced, nutritionally inadequate meals and snack ideas, implying that’s the way they eat all the time, and, in turn, the ‘ideal’ way to eat. We call codswallop on this.
Even though we might know it’s fake in theory, we’re still humans with emotions (including vulnerability and ‘imposter syndrome’) which leads us to compare ourselves to someone with the perception of perfection. Social media only offers a narrow glimpse into people’s lives. It’s typically the ‘highlights real’, suggesting that our (real) lives (and body) should also be perfect.
Body dissatisfaction in Australia has become such a prevalent issue it’s the topic Taryn Brumfit is advocating against as 2023’s Australian of the Year. Body acceptance is more than just weight, it incorporates our thoughts about our height, skin colour, eye colour, our whole body experience. Frighteningly, 70% of Australian school children rank body dissatisfaction as their number one cause of concern. So we are embarking on a campaign to address this, with an aggressive spring clean that even Marie Kondo would be proud of.
HOW TO SPRING-CLEAN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FEED AKA WHO TO UNFOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Pages and People to Unfollow:
- Any content which makes you feel inadequate or unworthy.
- Any content that makes you think you need to change something about your appearance in order to gain confidence and success in life.
- Any content that uses emotionally driven hashtags (eg. #cleaneating, #fitspo, #thinspo)
- Any content which suggests extreme diets (detoxing, juicing, or ‘cleansing’ – we all have a liver to do that), or heavily restricted meal ideas (such as raw vegetable salads, or ‘berry almond smoothies’)
- Any content promoting ‘fake food’, ‘diet culture’, ‘calorie tracking’ or ‘fasting’. We’ve had some clients who have installed apps to track “fasting” on their phones.
- Any content that suggests weight loss will make you more confident. Just to be clear, confidence is a state of mind, not a clothing size.
- Content showing “before and after” body images that reinforce the stereotypical ‘thin ideal’.
- Content of people “killing it at the gym” or posting excessive exercise regimens
- Content that is airbrushed or filtered (even if they claim #nofilter). These images are just as valuable as a cartoon and it’s not normal to compare ourselves to Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
Take your time, one social media account at a time. Unfollow as many as you need to cleanse your feed from the toxic crap that’s so prevalent online. We have previous clients who have unfollowed over 500 pages! You’ll feel a sense of freedom after doing this. Similar to when you clean out your pantry and get rid of all the out-of-date food. When you reorganise everything, it looks amazing every time you open the pantry door! In the same way that you create space for new food when you clean out your pantry, you’ll create space for new people who align better with your values. This brings us to our next point…
WHO TO FOLLOW ON SOCIAL MEDIA
- Accounts that highlight body diversity (all different heights, skin colour, cultural backgrounds and genders), sexual orientation, abilities and disabilities. Our bodies are diverse and wonderfully different. We’re not built to all look the same. Your socials should reflect the world we actually live in not the idealistic look you think you should be striving for to feel accepted.
- Food bloggers that post a diverse range of meals and snacks including burgers, apples, pizza and carrot sticks!
- Positive thinking pages and ones that remind you “It’s OK to not be OK”.
- Content that makes you feel fabulous about yourself, just as you are.
- Pages with real credentials behind them (such as dietitians or exercise physiologists).
- Content highlighting your hobbies, skills, interests or ideal holiday destinations. Adding diversity to the content so your news feed’s not just full of body image, food and exercise posts
Notice how you feel the first few days with your new feed. What’s your mood like? How do you feel about yourself? How do you feel about your body? Notice any small, subtle shifts that may have taken place. Cleaning up your social media feed isn’t a magic solution to healing your relationship with your body but it’s certainly a valuable tool and a step in the right direction.
Unfollow the accounts that you notice make you feel worse about your body. Follow the accounts that will give you positive motivation to invest in health-promoting behaviours. If you’d like further help with any of this, get in contact with the team at SS Diets. Click to book or send an enquiry.