Oh, you thought it was real - it was a filter...

Photo by SLAYTINA


Social media users are often exposed to images of idealized versions of themselves. This can undermine the self-esteem of consumers in terms of appearance, although the negative effects can vary depending on the type of social media use.


Active social media users, mostly youth, frequently update their social media profile themselves in a position to receive positive feedback and confirmations of their appearance, which can lead to greater self-esteem. Conversely, their peers who only view and respond to other people's posts are exposed to these idealized presentations without receiving positive feedback on their appearance, which can lead to reduced self-esteem. This self-loathing condition is termed as dysmorphia.


A study in 2015 was carried out to establish the relationship between social media engagement and bodily dissatisfaction in female adolescents. It was discovered that active self-image uploaders had considerably higher concerns maintaining or achieving perfect body form and weight through food choices and portions. For the female consumer who just 'likes' these uploads, it was reported that they had greater levels of overall body dissatisfaction and consequent adoption of uncontrolled eating habits.


How dysmorphia develops


Body dysmorphia is not simply influenced by content through social media. Normal-looking people have not been adequately represented in modeling, advertising, or entertainment for many years. The media primarily highlights people who embody unrealistic beauty standards, as opposed to showing people who differ from one another in terms of appearance.


Social media didn't create unrealistic beauty standards, but it has helped to maintain them. People that fit into this certain category of beauty standards are the most popular and get the most attention, which might feed the societal ideal that everyone should look a certain way.


Social media such Snapchat and Instagram are the popular kinds of social apps that rely on pictures and video to convey information. Social media is a never-ending source of information, and it has evolved into a place where users compete to create the "perfect" look in order to gain likes and followers. People edit and use filters to create the appearance of fake perfection in order to attain this. For instance, Instagram offers a plethora of free filters to change how you look. Additionally, you may use software applications like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom to alter your body size and skin tone.


When you see a photo of someone on social media, it could be hard to tell if they've changed how they look in person. You are just viewing a the 'best-angle', two-dimensional representation of someone's apparently flawless style.


If you see that they are receiving a lot of attention just because of their appearance, you could start to consider if you should change you appearance as well. This level of self-loathing and self-denial impacts the self-image leading to a vicious cycle. Victims of dysmorphia may be so consumed with their appearance that it interferes with their social and professional relationships.



Risks associated with dysmorphia


Individuals suffering from this disorder may develop substance misuse, depression, or suicidal thoughts as a result of the anxiety and potential isolation associated with body dysmorphia.

According to one study, those who have body dysmorphic disorder are four times more likely to consider suicide. Furthermore, compared to those without the disease, they were 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide.



How to keep dysmorphia habits at bay

  1. Be mindful of content you view : You shouldn't strive to disregard signals about society's expectations of beauty, but you also shouldn't dismiss them out of principle. To be able to identify these messages and avoid comparing oneself to others, is the goal. However, take into account why you continue to follow them if the vast majority of users in your social media stream are negative folks that make you feel terrible about yourself. Consider following accounts that encourage positivity and don't put too much emphasis on looks.

  2. Take a break: Social media consumption is a choice. Many other believe you can do without social media entirely. Long before social media existed, we had our lives centered on living-in-the-moment. Each day would end with less regrets and self-denials as against the constant self-doubt that arises from daily social media consumption. With that said, you can try putting your media accounts under the bed for some time. Trust me, you will see they are not of much usefulness.

  3. Engage in physical activity: You have to build confidence - no one else will do it for you. Although dysmorphia is about self-loathing, you can take advantage of this condition and reap benefits for your health. The goal should not be to 'look' but to 'feel'. One can never rule out the benefits of being physically active as your confidence, health, both physical and mental, are only going uphill. Also, you get to expose yourself to opportunities and healthy activities you never thought you'd ever encounter.

  4. Seek expert advice: Do not feel no one would be able to understand your needs. We are all human and have needs that overwhelm us. The topic of dysmorphia is nothing new to psychology and with the intervention of psychiatrists, many victims have gradually eased of this mental condition.