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How Does Social Media Impact Body Image?

How Does Social Media Impact Body Image? 

Hannah Cericola. LPC 

In today’s digital age, social media connects us like never before, but it can also influence our perception of body image. At Symmetry Counseling, we understand the complexities of this issue. The quest for likes and followers can lead to anxiety, depression, and body dissatisfaction. But there’s hope. Take control of your self-talk and seek influencers who promote healthy ideals. Join us on the journey to a positive body image. Reach out to our specialists today.

Social Media’s Impact 

Social media was created for users to have the ability to create, share, interact, and exchange knowledge. Social media has given users the means to reconnect with family members, market businesses, help build friendships, offer support, spread news, promote causes, and raise awareness on salient issues in society. Although social media has positively impacted the world in a variety of ways, there is a flip side to its influence on mental health regarding anxiety, depression, addiction, body dissatisfaction, and eating disorders. Social media’s likes, comments, and follower counts provide quantitative and qualitative feedback to its users. This appreciation from other social media users contributes to the evaluations of one’s self. The appreciation from other social media users combined with the promotion of body ideals highly impacts users’ self-evaluation, which can lead to body dissatisfaction and ultimately cause symptoms of anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. 

Social media’s power to create, share, and interact can negatively affect body image by over-exposing users to “idealized” body types. Body image is defined as one’s perception, thoughts, and emotions revolving around one’s body. Body dissatisfaction is explained as negative perceptions, thoughts, and emotions revolving around one’s body, which can lead to eating disorders, low self-esteem, and poor psychological well-being. Signs of body dissatisfaction can include: 

  • obsessive cynical thoughts surrounding their appearance
  • viewing oneself as unattractive
  • overly focusing on minor flaws in appearance
  • avoidance of social events
  • requiring assurance from others
  • obsessively tailoring oneself
  • engaging in extreme cosmetic surgeries or procedures. 

Social media is a critical factor contributing to an individual’s body image, as body ideals are constantly promoted across multiple platforms. 

How To Improve Body Image 

How can people improve their body image when their perception of themselves is influenced by the media? The first approach to subduing negative connotations of body image is to develop awareness of negative thoughts surrounding appearance. Thoughts are automatic and flow throughout our minds without being challenged. Keep tabs on your self-talk when looking at yourself in the mirror, in pictures, and on your social media feed. When challenging the negative thoughts of your body image, consider what the underlying motivation could be. Do you really feel like you should change yourself and your body, or is it influenced by friends, family, peers, trauma, or social media? Show yourself appreciation for what your body does for you. Cultivate acknowledgment of your body’s abilities. Shift your thinking of your body, diet, and exercise from how it will make you look to how it will benefit your health. 

Reducing exposure to idealized and unrealistic bodies in media and increasing exposure to friends and influencers who promote healthy and realistic media ideals. Decipher whether the people you follow or surround yourself with promote body positivity and, do not overly focus on physical appearance and promote unrealistic physical standards. 

Consider writing a letter to your younger self or a hypothetical younger person. Writing a letter is a dissonant approach as it will promote your commitment to a healthier body ideal. This approach can allow you to become aware of the pressures you put on yourself and how you would not place these unrealistic and unattainable standards on your younger self or a younger person. Develop affirmations and repeat these affirmations every day or whenever you notice yourself falling back into negative thoughts about your body image. 

It is important to recognize that some people may have the ability to successfully address their body dissatisfaction alone but others may need the assistance of a professional. A mental health professional who specializes in body dissatisfaction and eating disorders has been found beneficial to an individual’s recovery. If you struggle with body image issues or struggle with anxiety and depression surrounding social media, contact one of our specialists at Symmetry Counseling today to schedule your first appointment. You deserve to feel your best, and we are here to help. 


Jiotsa, B., Naccache, B., Duval, M., Rocher, B., & Grall-Bronnec, M. (2021). Social Media Use and Body Image Disorders: Association between Frequency of Comparing One’s Own Physical Appearance to That of People Being Followed on Social Media and Body Dissatisfaction and Drive for Thinness. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(6), 2880. 

Pedalino, F., & Camerini, A. L. (2022). Instagram Use and Body Dissatisfaction: The Mediating Role of Upward Social Comparison with Peers and Influencers among Young Females. International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(3), 1543.

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