Survey Finds Social Media Negatively Impacts Body Positivity

Too much time using filters on social media may impact how you view yourself. A new survey finds 41% of beauty filter users wish they looked the same in real life as they do on their cell phones.

The survey from Within Health asked over 1,000 Americans how they felt about their reflections when they looked in the mirror. The project’s goal was to find what features individuals care about the most, and if social media has any effects.

Although nearly 10% of respondents admit to avoiding themselves in the mirror, social media does not seem to impact if individuals use the mirror. Only 12% of those who ditch the mirror spend over three hours daily on social media apps. However, Within Health Data Journalist Rachel Kirsch notes social media may have a role in body dysmorphia.

"Yes, increased daily time on social media correlated with an increase in time spent focused on insecurities in the mirror and the number of negative terms they used to describe themselves," Kirsch told Healthnews. "People spending more than three hours on social media a day were also spending 11 minutes a day looking at their insecurities in the mirror. That's five more minutes than those spending less than an hour on social media."

Within Health’s survey found that people, on average, individuals who gaze into the mirror spend eight minutes each day looking at themselves. Respondents reported hairstyle, eyes, teeth, weight, and skin texture as the most noticed bodily feature. Individuals felt most confident in their eyes, but extremely insecure about their weight.

Kirsch and her team asked mirror users to describe themselves in single-word descriptions after looking into the mirror for 30 seconds. Of those who used social media for less than one hour, respondents described themselves as thoughtful, honest, and unique. Individuals with more than three hours of social media described themselves as plain, fat, and awkward. When broken down by generation, baby boomers, who generally spend less time on social media than Gen-Zers, were more likely to describe themselves in a positive manner.

"Daily time on social media also correlated with an increase in the likelihood of choosing negative adjectives to describe oneself. Those using social media for less than an hour a day only had two negative terms among their 10 most used adjectives. Meanwhile, those using social media for 1 or more hours had four negative terms in their top 10. Additionally, just 15% of people using social media for less than an hour described themselves as unattractive compared to 1 in 4 of those using social media for an hour or more a day.”

Of the one in 10 respondents who had used TikTok’s "bold glamour" beauty filter, 41% wished they looked like they do in the filter, and 13% felt it had impacted their self-worth. Previous research has linked heavy social media use with depression. Perhaps, younger generations would feel more body-positive if they learned lessons from their seniors.

"Given the correlation that we found between time spent on social media and negative self-perception and that half of baby boomers used social media for less than an hour, it's likely that their lack of social media usage allows them to be more positive about their personal appearance," Kirsch said.

Social media and mental health

A study from the University of Pennsylvania found social media use should be limited to 30 minutes each day. Less time on social media has been linked with benefits to boost mental health. According to the U.S. National Institute of Health’s 2021 statistics, more than 20% of adults in the United States have a mental illness.

The CDC says mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Individuals with depression are more likely to acquire serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. If you are struggling with stress due to your physical appearance, work, or daily livelihood, the CDC provides coping tips.

Tips for relieving stress:

  1. Take a break from the world: Yes, staying updated on current events is important, but negative headlines can take their toll. Sometimes, take a minute to disconnect from the world around us.
  2. Treat your body well: How good you feel is limited to what you intake. Try to make healthy food choices like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat or no-fat dairy options. Also, try to get seven hours of good sleep and a good dose of physical activity.
  3. Avoid substances: Along with limiting alcohol consumption, remove tobacco products and any illegal use of drugs or prescription drugs from your livelihood.


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