• Many of us realize that spending too much time on social media can be harmful—for example, it can damage self-esteem.
  • Recent research explored this consequence and found a link between increased use of social networking sites and women adopting “the thin ideal.”
  • This study analyzed over 1,800 females of various ages and found that those who use social media for picture-sharing and viewing purposes are at a higher risk of becoming dissatisfied with their bodies.
  • These findings aren’t surprising considering how much time we spend on social media: for example, 500 million people use Instagram (a major picture-sharing and viewing social platform) every day.
  • It’s important that we keep our social media habits in check: ask yourself if you could make some healthy changes to improve your wellbeing.

Most of us could probably agree that social media can damage self-esteem—especially in women. Think about it: every magazine has a slender woman on the cover and a story within about how she lost the weight—and how you can, too. Additionally, TV shows and movies cast female leads that make women feel pressured to look just as desirable, to meet those often-unrealistic beauty standards. In summary, women are made to feel like they aren’t good enough the way they are, due in large part to the media. And a recent study proves it: this research conducted at the University of South Australia found a link between increased use of social networking sites and women adopting “the thin ideal,” which favors a slim body. 

This study involved analyzing just over 1,800 females, between the ages of 10 and 46, in six different independent studies. It ultimately found that those who used social networking sites mainly for posting or viewing pictures (e.g., women who use Instagram and Snapchat as opposed to more text-based sites like Facebook) were at a higher risk of becoming dissatisfied with their bodies.

While we’ve been aware of these negative effects, this new study raises concern, as does the rise of social media. The following prove the power of social media today:

  • There are 3.5 billion active social media users in the world today.
  • There are 4.4 billion internet users around the world.
  • 2.7 billion people use Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger each month.
  • 1 billion people use Instagram every month, and 500 million use it every day.
  • 95 million photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram.
  • Of those who use Facebook, 74% of them check it daily.

Basically, we spend a ton of time on social media. And it should come as no surprise that doing some comes with negative effects like low self-esteem. That said, it can do us all some good to reflect on the overall role social media plays in our lives, not just how it affects our self-esteem or body ideals. Take a minute to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. Are my social media habits unhealthy?
  2. Is social media negatively affecting my life?
  3. Am I spending too much time scrolling?

I’m not saying you have to quit social media altogether. But it might be smart to cut back or change your current habits if you’re experiencing some negative side effects. It’s also important that you do your part to respect on other social media users and build them up instead of tear them down.