The social media situation

May 21, 2020

In a time where many are isolated, social media can be one of the only ways to stay caught up with the lives of the people one would have used to see at school everyday. But of course, that connection is distorted. What’s seen and posted on social media is often referred to as the highlight reel of one’s life. Instagram feeds can be filled with beautifully crafted salads and brightly colored smoothies as people hide the large pizza and pint of ice cream they ate. This forcefully gilded trend hasn’t changed much under social distancing.

“Research shows social media frequently portrays images that emphasize appearance and are unrealistic for the majority of people,” said Dr. Melinda Green, a professor of psychology at Cornell College. “If someone is struggling with anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or low self-esteem, he or she may compare themselves to these images in an unfavorable way and feel like they don’t measure up.”

Opening Instagram can mean coming across the seemingly perfect life of a celebrity, and the “For You” page of TikTok is filled with fitness transformation videos. The feeling that one must come out of this time of social distancing a changed person often leads to negative self thoughts and sometimes dangerous exercise habits. 

“For me personally, it’s very toxic right now because every social media platform I opened is talking about quarantine weight gain, the quarantine 15 workouts that you do, eating healthy, ‘let’s glow up this quarantine,’” said Emma Selby ’22. “It’s kind of frustrating because I think everyone is obviously different, everyone’s body is different, everyone’s needs are different, so I appreciate people who want to share what works for them because if it can help someone else that’s really helpful, but I think it can also be really triggering to people with eating disorders, especially during this time.”

The constant talk on the internet about gaining weight during social distancing also frustrates Sam Croco ’22.

“Quarantine has definitely not helped my body image. Sitting in my bed watching video after video and seeing picture after picture of a girl who I would give so much to look like really sucks. I struggle with motivation to do a lot of stuff, so forcing myself to workout 20 minutes a day is a struggle,” Croco said. 

Lack of motivation is common whilst social distancing, when time doesn’t feel relevant and the days start to mold together. Making a routine and sticking with it can be a difficult task but has proven to be an effective coping strategy for those who feel they need more structure throughout their days.

For students struggling with body image conditions, isolation can be especially hard. On top of this feeling of isolation, seeing what seems to be “everyone” exercising and eating healthy can easily make any person feel the need to do the same. To reduce the amount of stress and anxiety, Green recommends to occupy time with uplifting tasks. 

“Find activities that reduce your anxiety and give you a sense of worth. Connect with others who make you feel heard, understood, loved, and accepted.  Identify ways to celebrate life even on days you are experiencing high levels of anxiety and doubt.  Remember that the body does not react well to extreme rules or restrictions.  It is hard to love and accept the self if you are engaging in behaviors that are punishing,” Green said. “Pay attention to how you feel after eating or exercising rather than paying attention to numbers. Do things that make you feel good and have positive outcomes [and] remember you are not alone and seek out others for support on hard days.”

Due to social distancing and quarantine in other states, lots of fitness bloggers and YouTubers are releasing free workout programs and advertising their meal choices on social networking sites. 

“The worst part about it is that I know no matter how much I do, I will never look exactly how I want to look. I’ve gone through a lot of stuff because of this feeling, from skipping meals to over exercising, but that isn’t a healthy way to feel better about my appearance,” Croco said. “What I’ve been doing a lot lately is looking up videos about body positivity and seeing so many beautiful girls talking about how everybody is beautiful and how they have learned to love themselves over the years. That doesn’t automatically solve my negative feelings towards myself, but I feel like it’s a start.” 


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