CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness and eating disorders which could be distressing to some readers.
Body image is the perception we have of ourselves, and importantly the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.
This age group are the biggest user and most impressionable from social media, therefore are apps such as TikTok doing enough for promoting positive body image?
TikTok saw a 180% growth of users aged 15-25 during covid with the younger generation (10-19) making up 25% of users, the highest proportion. Globally kids spend an average of 75 minutes per day on TikTok.
This generation is highly impressionable and takes in what they are watching online.
TikTok's influence can be seen in the fact that any songs trending on the app frequently make it into the top songs on Spotify.
So how is this affecting the younger generations?
The increased use of social media and influencer culture especially among the younger generations has led to body comparison.
The media is an overwhelming source of images, diets, and tips and tricks for "looking your best," but this excessive volume of material frequently leaves viewers with unattainable standards and depressive thoughts. Our culture has been conditioned to believe that being "slim" is attractive and having "muscles" is normal. If you don't fit into these narrow categories, you immediately start thinking negatively about yourself.
These physical perfectionist ideals distance us from self-actualization. This body dissatisfaction can have detrimental effects on both psychological and physical health.
Negative self-perceptions can be difficult to overcome because they frequently stick with us throughout our lives, starting from a young age. From personal experience, I can still feel the concerns I had about my body as a child when I look in the mirror today.
Harmful words you told yourself can lead to doing anything in your control to ‘fit into’ those tiny unrealistic boxes. Social media should be working against this, not adding to these concerns.
Eating disorders, self-harm, self-esteem and other mental illnesses frequently manifest at this stage, and later in life become challenging to overcome.
We must do more to ensure that future generations develop a positive sense of self.
How we perceive ourselves and our confidence can significantly impact our lifestyles, work, and mental health. Instilling confidence in future generations will boost their self-esteem and confidence in their abilities.
Encourage a shift in perspective
People with negative body image often become fixated on changing their physical appearances, leading to unhealthy relationships with food or exercise.
Instead of this physical change, media platforms should be encouraging a shift in perspective, psychological acceptance and overall mental wellbeing.
Teaching the next generation that our inner selves and thoughts are what alter the world, not what we appear to be physically and externally.
Media such as TikTok should be making focus on how we perceive, feel, and consider our physical selves when we look in the mirror, rather than how to alter them.
1) Create media that encourages body neutrality to relieve pressures associated with body image. This allows for an easy transition into positive thinking without setting ambitious goals that appear unattainable.
2) Make conscious decisions on what to look at online, keeping in mind that some media has been severely altered and designed. Not allowing ourselves to be influenced by comparison to accept ourselves as a whole.
Although creating media that is constantly body positive is a good way to help people overcome the negative comparisons they make about their bodies. This can also become overwhelming and restrict progress. Thinking positively about yourself can feel out of reach. Developing a mindset that is free of image pressures is a realistic stepping stone within the media, to achieve the goal of a positive way of thinking about yourself and your body.