In the contemporary world, social media has a crucial impact on youth. For most people from a different generation, the need to post a new selfie or the idea of ‘checking in’ may seem strange, but for modern teenagers online communication through ‘likes’ and comments provides establishment of their self-esteem as well as acceptance in the community. Nevertheless, virtual life forces youngsters to compare themselves with other people’s photos online, which, in turn, provokes the development of negative thoughts and dissatisfaction. Thus, due to the constant use of social media websites and applications, young people are more likely to make friends online rather than establish real-life relationships. At the same time, social media has a destructive effect on the body image of youngsters, especially young girls, who evaluate their appearance in accordance to the edited photos of popular people they follow on Instagram or Snapchat. Moreover, as social media networks offer an improved version of reality, they influence youngsters’ self-determination. In this respect, certain measures should be taken in order to reduce adverse effects of social media on the development of young people. Therefore, being an integral part of teenagers life, social media negatively affects their self-esteem, promoting anxiety, depression, loneliness, and deterioration of relationships in real life.
Instagram and its effects
Social media, specifically Instagram, has a negative effect on teenagers body image. The application has more than 150 million users, more than 39% of whom are 16-24 years old (Instagram Ranked Worst). It mainly focuses on posting pictures of daily life, following other users accounts, writing comments, and sending likes to photos. It allows users to communicate through pictures or videos documenting their lives. Moreover, Instagram has a number of ‘filters’ to make different manipulations with photos. In this respect, a person can create an impression that his or her life as well as appearance is much better than in reality. While this social networking site supports the establishment of an instant social and emotional connection between teenagers, allowing them post and send their photos, many youngsters expect to gain social acceptance through Instagram. K. Nola Mokeyane states that media has had an increasingly negative impact on the way teenage girls measure their personal image and beauty standards. Relying on these pictures, teenagers judge their appearance and body according to the edited photos of others they see online. The greatest part of Instagram users are females, who are extremely sensitive to developing eating disorders while trying to achieve the body shape they have seen on the picture of either a celebrity or a fiend they follow. Being impacted by outside pressure, teenage girls attempt to demonstrate unrealistic photos of their body on social media. Following these ideas, young women feel obliged to conform to the idea of an ideal body (Mokeyane). Therefore, social media, such as Instagram, reinforces a negative body image, especially in teen girls, who are considered the most vulnerable group.
Furthermore, Instagram evokes a strong feeling of loneliness and anxiety in young people. According to Amanda MacMillan, Instagram was associated with high levels of anxiety, depression, bullying and FOMO, or the fear of missing out. Indeed, young adults are afraid of becoming social outsiders. Moreover, studies show that teenagers who spend much time a day on social websites and applications are more likely to become psychologically unstable (MacMillan). Watching other people having a full life and enjoying celebrations or nights out, young people feel they lack all the joys of life. As a result, it makes teenagers compare their life to those whom they follow on social media. Moreover, posts on social media networks affect self-esteem of its users, specifically young girls, who are more vulnerable to social judgment than boys (Edgington 23). As it is an image-focused platform, Instagram may heighten the feeling of inadequacy of the photos youngsters see. For example, if a public figure or celebrity shares photos of his or her daily life from luxury places or exotic locations, it makes teenagers question their connection with the reality. As a result, the image of ideal life lowers self-esteem of young people and can even cause a mental health crisis (Edgington 36). Therefore, Instagram negatively impacts the psychological state of teenagers, evoking such feelings as loneliness, anxiety, and sadness.
Social media forces teenagers to evaluate their body
Images of thin women that teenagers see online force them to reevaluate their body and lower their self-esteem. Not only Instagram but also other social media networks such as Facebook affect the way young people perceive themselves. MacMillan states that Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies arent good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look perfect. Indeed, posting of ideal body images makes young women question their appearance, which, in turn, influences their self-esteem and promotes the loss of self-confidence (Woollaston). In this respect, girls try to lose weight at young age when their bodies are not physically developed yet. This particular practice may lead to dangerous health consequences. Moreover, not only young girls but also boys feel pressure of social media concerning their body. For instance, watching photos of masculine celebrities or influencers, young men feel a necessity to strengthen their muscles. Although keeping oneself in a good physical shape is beneficial, sometimes it may involve taking extreme measures such as the use of various chemicals or stimulants.
Speaking about the impact of social media on teenagers’ judgments about their body, social websites and applications may have a negative effect on the health of young people. While people predominantly share positive aspects of their life online, teenagers desperately attempt to fit the world where everything looks perfect. Hence, being in a continuous pursuit of social approval, teenagers suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia (Fitzgerald). Watching images of people in the ideal physical shape, teenagers torture themselves with different kinds of diets, thus ruining their health (Fitzgerald; Edgington 67). At the same time, it has been scientifically proven that social media websites, for example Instagram or Snapchat, are likely to cause depression, especially in young women (Edgington 68). Depression, in turn, is commonly linked with obesity, which is a serious eating disorder (Fitzgerald). As a result, suffering from particular diseases, teenagers feel unhappy with their appearance. Although body image may change during lifetime, sometimes it is hard for young people to perceive themselves the way the