Social media is a popular tool for communication and entertainment. Few people would question the fact that people are spending an increasing amount of time on these new media platforms. In recent years, social media has become much more visual in presentation and layout. However, it is the evolution of the technology used to manipulate and alter images that have researchers concerned.
Social Media Dysmorphia
The journalist Katie Couric made headlines when she shared an unedited selfie of herself without makeup. She shared the image of herself to draw attention to the distorted reality that photo editing software and applications can create. Couric was encouraging people to embrace their natural self and not be ashamed. Mental health professionals are concerned that unknowingly viewing heavily edited images can create a sense of body dysmorphia in the viewers. The term Snapchat Dysmorphia is now becoming an increasingly common phrase.
In the past decades, people are accustomed to seeing heavily edited images in advertisements. The fact that individuals in these ads have been airbrushed either physically or digitally is not a surprise. But now the technology has advanced to a level where the common social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat all have heavily edited photos. These images can portray an unrealistic and unattainable reality.
The question is whether social media users are aware that these images of average, everyday people are altered through the use of newer digital filters? The brain of the viewer who is looking at the image may not realize that it has been altered. This lack of awareness can have a negative impact on the viewer’s personal body image, and potentially lead to an eating disorder.
Photo Editing Apps
Image and video editing software have been around for many years. These also could create an unrealistic expectation of beauty. What has changed is that now there are downloadable apps that offer high-tech image filtering capabilities. Now almost anybody can modify a photo on their smartphone, no previous experience required. Photo editing applications like Adobe Lightroom or Facetune make it easy for users to boost color saturation, clear up one’s complexion or whiten a person’s teeth.
The fact that software Lightroom can alter reality is not problematic. Issues occur when the people who are viewing the images are not aware that they are looking at a distorted reality. This images may present body image concepts that are physically unrealistic. Yet, due to the everyday, common feel of many social media platforms, viewers are sometimes tricked into believing they are looking at unedited photos.
Recent articles in the JAMA state that plastic surgeons are increasingly receiving requests to make patients look like their selfie images. Again, this is because photo editing software is becoming the norm, which is altering people’s perception of beauty and their overall body image.
The growth in cases of what some researchers are calling Snapchat dysmorphia can negatively impact people’s self-esteem. If severe enough, these self-esteem and body image issues can develop into body dysmorphic disorder.
Other Studies have already shown that there is a correlation between social media use and eating disorders like Orthorexia. People with this disease excessively focus on what they consider healthy eating. In doing this, they can actually start to damage their physical health. Studies have shown a correlation between orthorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Some studies are pointing to a link between Instagram users and signs of orthorexia.
Broader research has shown that there is a definite correlation between social media usage and negative feelings. A recent study from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine indicated that the more time individuals spent on social media websites, the more isolated and lonely they felt. Researchers believe that social media websites expose people to “highly idealized representations” of other people’s lives. This, in turn, creates feelings of envy as well as a distorted belief that other people are happier and more successful.
As more studies are conducted, it appears that the heavy consumption of social media content can create negative consequences. Social media channels may not create eating disorders and other mental health concerns, but these websites can exacerbate a pre-existing problem. For comments or questions about this topic or eating disorders in general, please reach out to us.
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At Toledo Center, our focus is to provide high-quality medical treatment for eating disorders. Our therapies have a proven track record and are cost-effective. We provide specialized care for patients with eating disorders in a state-of-the-art treatment environment. The clinic follows a treatment philosophy designed to provide an affordable treatment alternative to inpatient care. Our clinic provides state-of-the-art treatment located in a modern, spacious and tranquil setting in Sylvania, Ohio (just outside of Toledo, OH). The facility provides an effective and safe alternative to hospitals or hospital-based programs. Living facilities are located in the main building to comfortably accommodate adults and adolescents in separate units.
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Dysmorphia, Social Media, Body Image