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Scrolling for self worth: How social media shapes teen body image and self-esteem


Have you ever had feelings or thoughts about your body? Certainly, it can be both positive and negative thoughts. This mixture of feelings and thoughts about your body is referred to as body image. Nowadays, teenagers are usually the most affected by body image concerns. This may be due to the fact that adolescence is the period of life when you have the majority of body-related changes.

When someone has a negative body image, they start to have frequent dissatisfaction and, often, irrational thoughts whenever they look at themselves. The majority of the time, having this dissatisfaction about one’s body can lead them to treat their body unfairly and dangerously. A negative body image can lead people, especially teens, to depression, extreme dieting, eating disorders, emotional breakdowns, over-exercising, and harmful drug abuse. While your surroundings definitely are a part of building body images, social media is often a major source of developing positive and negative body images among teens.

Unfortunately, on a large scale, social media influences teens’ body image negatively, partly because teens often don’t realize that everything they see on social media is not always true. They forget to realize that everyone will try to look flawless on camera and will do their best to maintain a perfect image. This involves using filters, photoshopping, orienting themselves in a certain way, and much more.

Social media exposes teens to constant comparison. Social media platforms often portray stereotypically beautiful people rather than showing people of all sizes and body types. Images of models and influencers are frequently edited to make their features look perfect. This triggers the thought of being a ‘perfectionist’ in teenagers. Teens compare themselves with the appearance of celebrities, influencers, and models they see on social media, which, the majority of the time, is very unrealistic. 

Every indicator of mental health and psychological well-being has become more negative among teens and young adults since 2012

— Jean Twenge, physiologist

Teens are very conscious of what others think of them. They are heavily influenced by the feedback they receive from their peers and people their age, and social media is a rapid way of getting that feedback. Thus, their body image becomes heavily dependent on others’ viewpoints. Whenever they get a good comment on their posts on social media accounts, they feel elated. However, when they receive harsh, mean, and destructive comments in their photos, it destroys their positive thoughts and builds a negative body image and dissatisfaction towards their body.

Jean Twenge, a physiologist, wrote in her 2023 book Generations, “Every indicator of mental health and psychological well-being has become more negative among teens and young adults” since 2012 when social media dramatically increased in popularity.

However, social media can prove to be a positive platform for body image and aid in the overall improvement of teens’ body image concerns. Some influencers have already started to build those types of self-improvement movements on various social media platforms. This may have provoked teens to realize that nobody is perfect; everyone has their flaws and parts of their body that they are not satisfied with.

Truly, it is undeniable that social media often serves as a place for negative body image thoughts among teenagers. Nevertheless, it is crucial for adolescents to recognize that the journey towards body positivity commences with self-compassion and self-respect. To cultivate a healthier self-image, teenagers should practice self-care and empathy towards themselves, much like they would for a beloved friend or family member. In the midst of their daily activities, be it engaging in their favourite games, sports, or walks with friends, they must pause to acknowledge the incredible capabilities their bodies afford them. By cherishing these abilities and demonstrating gratitude, teens can embark on a path of self-acceptance and ensure they treat their bodies with the love and appreciation they undeniably deserve.

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About the Contributor
Iffat Nafisa, Contributor
Iffat Nafisa is a contributor for the Kingsley Voice. She has been a part of the team since 2023.

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    NayonNov 4, 2023 at 8:12 pm

    Good writing !