You’ve seen them on Facebook and other social media — posts by uber-fit people doing super-athletic things. You may want to look away, as it seems those photos and blurbs may not be great for your relationships and self-esteem.
That’s the conclusion of a new report by a Scottish mental health foundation that found social media not only exacerbates negative perceptions of bodies that don’t measure up, but even causes people who are perfectly healthy to feel less satisfied.
“People of healthy weight can also have poor body image,” says the report from the Mental Health Foundation Scotland and the University of Strathclyde.
The report stems from a conference last year involving 50 students, professors, social media influencers, as well as staff from charities and mental health organizations throughout Scotland, who shared personal experiences and discussed strategies to curb the negativity of social media.
It’s sure to add the snowballing blowback toward social media, which has been scolded, fined and boycotted for misusing data, and providing a platform for violence, bullying and fake news. Facebook has even become an issue in the Democratic presidential primary campaign, with some candidates calling for the company to be broken apart.
The giant social media company was fined $5 billion last year by the Federal Trade Commission for misusing data. Facebook, used by more than a third of the world’s population, made $55.8 billion in 2018 revenue.
Instagram, a Facebook subsidiary, gets particular criticism from the Scottish report because of the “visual nature” of the hugely popular video-sharing social network service, which is accessed by 500 million daily.
The report says that research has shown that “Instagram use may negatively influence women’s beliefs and concerns related to appearance.”
Poor body image can prompt eating disorders, low self-esteem, depression and obesity, the report says.
The Scottish conferees came up with a six-point strategy for limiting the negative effects of social media. The most effective may be the most obvious — limiting time spent online and in apps.
But they also proposed educating young people on how social media works and “how it differs from reality in relation to body image and beyond,” as well as managing online content to block “harmful/triggering content” and “toxic people or pages.”