Eating disorders have doubled in the past three years, and experts say this increase is due to one problem and one problem only: social media
One new trend promoted by social media is the “thigh gap,” a craze that has encouraged young girls to want a space between their legs so they appear skinnier. This puts a negative weight on young girls that shouldn’t be there.
“When trying to shape who we are it’s made even harder when you’re scrolling through Instagram thinking everyone is more beautiful, thin, interesting, and fun than you,” Katherine Coogan ’17 said. “These constant unobtainable ideals being thrown in your face can make you doubt yourself every time you log onto any social media platform. This incessant comparison between your life and someone else’s can make your self-esteem plummet if you’re not completely and utterly secure with yourself.”
On social media there are constant posts of women in bikinis who have the “perfect body shape.” Constantly getting updated with pictures of women with “the perfect body” have only a negative effect on the viewer.
“I think comparison is a major cause of body dysmorphia and eating disorders, and in today’s digital age a lot of that comparison can come from social media,” Jenna Patterson ’16, the president of Reshaping Reality, said. “I think a lot of people think body dysmorphia and eating disorders only affect women, and that it is a result of women comparing themselves to other women on social media.”
Not only does social media provide teens with images of idealistic bodies, but it has allowed teens to communicate with each other about the best methods to stay skinny. One website called The Pro-Ana Lifestyle Forever features tips to help teens maintain an anorexic lifestyle. The website not only supports those who are anorexic, but encourages others to follow the same path. Social Media helps to profile a platform where young anorexic girls can support and exchange strategies to stay skinny and ultimately starve.
While social media has been detrimental to many teenage girls’ body images, there are many people out there who promote the acceptance of all different body types. One plus size model, Robyn Lawley remarked that, “The truth is I couldn’t care less about needing a supposed ‘thigh gap.’ It’s just another tool of manipulation that other people are trying to use to keep me from loving my body. Why would I want to starve and weaken my natural body size?”
The pressure to have the perfect body type that most girls want is immense. To be a certain dress or pant size is not realistic because some people’s bodies, like Robyn Lawley’s, are physically not meant to be that size. It just is not the way their body is naturally. Anorexia is affecting millions of young teens minds, and is causing deep insecurity in them.
“I truly believe it comes down to your thinking, reactions, and use of social media,” Patterson said.