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Hilal Her

Fashion to Filters: Impact of Social Media on Body Image

March 2024

In the age of social media, where platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat shape beauty ideals, the discourse on body image has evolved into a complex debate. This digital era has reshaped beauty ideals and influenced surgical and non-surgical aesthetic treatments. From influencers setting new standards, social media has impacted body image, fashion standards and the growing normalization of aesthetic treatments. The emergence of the body image debate can be traced back to the widespread use of social media platforms. 



With its visual-centric nature, Instagram plays a pivotal role in shaping beauty ideals. Filters, editing tools, and curated aesthetics create an environment where users may feel pressured to conform to unrealistic standards. The TikTok algorithm favors certain body types and trends, potentially perpetuating narrow beauty standards. TikTok’s impact is evident in the rise of viral dance challenges, where users may feel compelled to showcase their bodies in a particular way to gain visibility. With its augmented reality (AR) filters, Snapchat allows users to experiment with altered facial features, potentially reinforcing desires for ‘perfect’ features. The widespread use of the ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ phenomenon, where individuals seek cosmetic procedures to resemble their digitally altered selves, showcases the impact of these platforms on self-perception. The rise of influencers who openly share their beauty transformations on social media platforms has influenced millions globally contributing to the normalization of cosmetic procedures.
Impacts of Social Media on Body Image
Idealized Beauty Standards
Social media often presents an idealized reality, contributing to the unrealistic beauty standards and leading to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Influencers who openly share their perfected images contribute to the normalization of digitally altered beauty ideals. 
Cyberbullying and Body Shaming
A person’s ability to remain anonymous on social media platforms might make it easier for cyberbullying and body shaming to occur, which can have a detrimental effect on mental health and exacerbate the complicated relationship between body image and self-worth.
FOMO and Social Comparison
Constant exposure to seemingly perfect lives can cultivate a fear of missing out (FOMO) and perpetuate social comparison, fuelling dissatisfaction with one’s body. The ‘Instagram vs. Reality’ movement on platforms like YouTube aims to demystify idealized images and promote authenticity.
Botox and Fillers
The rise of facial aesthetic procedures can be attributed, in part, to the influence of social media. Filters and editing tools often smooth out wrinkles and enhance facial features, creating a standard that some individuals seek to achieve in real life. Social media influencers openly discuss their experiences with botox, contributing to the normalization of these treatments.
Unrealistic Expectations
Social media’s portrayal of flawless faces may contribute to unrealistic expectations, leading individuals to seek treatments to match digital perfection. ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ reflects the desire to check filtered appearances, raising concerns about the impact on self-perception. Many celebrities worldwide advocate embracing natural beauty and resisting the pressure to conform to external standards. Excessive use of filters and exposure to amplified appearances can contribute to body dysmorphic concerns, where individuals perceive flaws that may not objectively exist. 

How to Stop Obsessing Over Your Flaws
Navigating the challenges of growing up in the era of social media is challenging. Dealing with social media in the present era can be daunting and complex. However, there are a few steps that one can take to help curb an inclination to be self-critical and put an end to comparing yourself to others.
Take Breaks from Social Media
If social media negatively impacts your self-esteem, taking a step back may be beneficial. Recognize the importance of taking breaks from technology and make a conscious effort to reduce your online presence. Set specific times for using social media and explore mindfulness techniques to stay present in the moment.
Engaging in activities that bring you joy can be a powerful way to enhance your self-esteem, especially if social media hurts your body image. Browsing through social media can sometimes feel like a directionless activity and it is crucial to prioritize activities that bring you joy. If social media becomes overwhelming, taking a break and prioritizing your mental wellbeing over comparing yourself to others is perfectly fine.



Social Media Doesn’t Always Reflect Reality
Keep in mind that social media doesn’t accurately reflect reality. It is important to remember that what we see online can be deceiving. Social media posts often portray an idealized reality, showcasing only the best aspects of people’s lives. The images we see of people online only capture their happiest moments or when they look their best, giving us a limited glimpse into their lives. 
Editing poses a significant challenge in the realm of social media. Due to the societal expectations of online appearance, many individuals resort to apps that enhance their skin or modify their body shape. When we view these images, it can sometimes evoke feelings of self-doubt as we compare ourselves to the individuals depicted online. However, those images fail to portray individuals’ appearance in reality, accurately. Remember that nobody’s life is perfect, so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to these posts. And that’s perfectly fine!
Embrace the Beauty of Imperfection
It is fascinating to learn that a mere 2% of the world’s population possesses a perfectly symmetrical face. It is pretty rare, and even symmetry doesn’t guarantee perfection. In addition, it is worth noting that our brains are not particularly adept at recognizing or remembering the specific features of other people’s faces. This implies that you are likely to perceive more flaws in yourself than others.
Remember that your body’s primary purpose is to ensure your wellbeing and enable you to pursue the activities that bring you purpose and  joy. One’s value should not be determined by how one’s body looks. Instead, appreciate it for what it does for you each day in a healthy manner. It is genuinely astounding how our bodies endure to sustain our lives! Your body does not need to look a certain way to be appreciated; that is not its purpose. Everybody is unique and beautiful in their own way. The most crucial aspect is to be kind to yourself. You can make social media work in your favor without altering your appearance. 
Unfollow Accounts
Unfollow accounts that don’t bring positivity into your life. Be mindful of the accounts, individuals, and images that inspire and uplift you. Focus on replacing harmful content with positive content in order to improve one’s overall wellbeing.
The body image debate on social media has expanded beyond mere aesthetics, influencing fashion standards and the normalization of aesthetic treatments. Social media, once dominated by unrealistic standards, now celebrates diversity. However, this newfound inclusivity coexists with the normalization of aesthetic procedures, raising concerns about the blurred lines between self-expression and conformity. 
In this digital era, it is crucial to critically examine the role of social media in shaping perceptions of body image and fashion standards. Balancing the celebration of individuality along with the cognizance about consequences of unrealistic digital ideals is vital for the nurturing of a healthy environment for all. The dynamic nature of social media ensures that this conversation will continue to evolve, demanding ongoing reflection and adaptation to promote positive change about body image.


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