Social Media’s Influence on Health and Eating Disorders
Amanda Winstead is a writer from the Portland area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories. Along with writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi, you can find her on Twitter.
We live in a world where almost everyone understands how popular social media is. But not everyone takes the time to think about how powerful it is. With billions of active users on some type of social media platform across the globe, it’s one of the most influential factors in our society today.
In some cases, that can be a good thing. In others, it’s not.
Social media influences everything from fashion and music to viral trends and marketing techniques. It also can greatly influence your health. Again, that can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what you choose to follow and believe.
Understanding the overall impact of social media can help you make better choices when it comes to your health. That’s especially important if you’re dealing with or have recently overcome an eating disorder. Taking control of your own life and choices will make a big difference.
So, how does social media influence your health? Should you stay on your current platforms, or is it time to take a step back?
How Social Media Can Influence Your Health
Social media can influence people’s health and wellbeing the same way it influences anything else. Things quickly become “trends” for a reason. The more people who become interested in something, the more it will get shared online. Sometimes that can be inspiring, sometimes it can be damaging. We’ll touch more on that later.
It’s important to know how spending time on apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can really influence you. For starters, scrolling mindlessly for hours on end not only can contribute to a lack of motivation or boredom, but it can cause eye strain, headaches, and a lack of focus.
The mental health aspects of social media have been widely studied as well. Some of the biggest drawbacks to spending too much time on social media include:
- Comparing yourself to others
- Experiencing FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
- Developing body image issues
- Feeling isolated
- Experiencing cyberbullying
On the other hand, social media can be inspirational. It’s inspired many people to try new things, travel to new places, and accomplish goals.
It’s impossible to deny the impact social media can have on your health, in general. How far does that impact go if you’re trying to deal with an eating disorder?
What Are the Positives?
It’s estimated that eating disorders impact 9% of the U.S. population. That’s 28.8 million Americans who will experience some type of eating disorder in their lifetime. When you consider how many people use social media daily, it’s impossible for the two not to intersect. But, are there any positives to that?
We’ve already touched on the fact that social media can be motivating and inspiring. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest positives for someone dealing with an ED. You can use it to connect with others who might be going through some of the same struggles. If you look in the right places, you can become a part of support groups, watch videos that can help, and even connect with experts who can help you find a balance.
Another positive to social media is being able to witness recovery stories. When you can see people who have been through what you’re dealing with now come out on the other side, it’s a great way to inspire hope and know that you’re strong enough to get through this.
What Are the Negatives?
One of the biggest “cons” of social media for someone with an ED is comparison. Connecting with people is wonderful, but when you start comparing yourself with how others look, it can become a dangerous and harmful experience.
Comparison is natural in everyday life. But social media takes it to a new level by allowing people to show the “highlight reels” of their lives. You might know that a picture or video has been edited or filtered. It’s still hard to stop comparing. You can break free from the comparison cycle by:
- Limiting your time on social media apps
- Unfollowing accounts that make you feel bad
- Taking a break
- Being real on your accounts
When you’re trying to overcome an eating disorder, social media can be a positive resource or a way to make your recovery harder. Ultimately, it’s about balancing your time on social media with other positive things in your life, including surrounding yourself with in-person support. While you don’t need to stay off these platforms completely, if you start to notice that they’re doing more harm than good for your health and wellbeing, consider taking a step back. You might be surprised at how much better you feel when you do.