‘I felt my body wasn’t good enough’: teenage issues with Instagram | Eating disorders


IAn internal Facebook search that revealed that its Instagram app is making body image problems worse for young users has been leaked, revealing how well the social media giant is aware of its product’s effect on mental health. According to leaked documents, research conducted by the company over the past two years has consistently found that the photo-sharing platform is harmful to a large portion of its users, especially teenage girls. The app worsens body image problems for one in three teenage girls, according to the internal presentation seen by the the Wall Street newspaper.

Three people speak here about the connection they have observed and experienced between Instagram and body image issues.

“It’s easy to drown in the Instagram feed of beautiful people”

Emily *, 20, a student in Edinburgh, said she believed Instagram contributed to the diagnosis of an eating disorder when she was 19. She started using the platform at the age of 15 and used it mostly to follow fitness influencers. While her use of social media initially provided helpful motivation for her workouts, it started to affect how she viewed herself. “I felt like my body wasn’t good enough because even though I was going to the gym a lot, my body still never looked like the bodies of these influencers,” said Emily, who is now recovering.

“Even though on some level I knew social media isn’t reality, I didn’t quite get it. “

The 20-year-old now uses the app sparingly and with caution. “I’m now intentionally looking for accounts whose posts make me feel good and empowered, and if I notice someone’s posts make me feel bad in any way, then I am opting out.” I try to follow only people who have realistic messages and don’t edit their photos. It’s easy to get drowned in the Instagram feed because you can always find beautiful people with great bodies, ”she said. “So you can dwell on this too much. “

Emily said comparing herself to social media influencers was particularly damaging. “It’s more damaging, because you don’t really have the context. When you don’t know someone personally, it’s easy to assume that that person has no flaws and that their body and life is perfect.

“My daughter developed anorexia during confinement”

When her 13-year-old daughter announced that she was going to start exercising and eating healthier during the first lockdown, Ellie * didn’t think much about it. “She exercised, ate less sweets, and ate more vegetables and fruits. At first glance, everything was brilliant – but then it started to evolve, ”said the 48-year-old, who lives in London. “Within six months, it had turned into anorexia.”

Initially, the teenager used Instagram to follow her favorite friends and actors, but her mother said she is turning more and more to influencers. “At this age, they don’t have a filter – everything they see, they take it as it is,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with exercising, but it has become an obsession. She would see influencers say, “You can have the perfect body in three months,” and she would believe it. Let me make it clear: if she hadn’t had social media, my child wouldn’t have been anorexic.

Ellie spoke to her daughter about social media and how photos could be airbrushed. “I always contradicted the message she got from Instagram, about stereotypical perfect bodies, and tried to give her a broader perspective,” she said.

“But she was like, ‘Mom you don’t understand – all kids my age worry about their bodies.’” The 13-year-old, who is in treatment, still uses Instagram. “She doesn’t follow reports related to exercise or promoting anorexia. My approach is not to pick up his phone – that would only make it worse. I try to teach him to use it wisely.

“Most of my psychotherapy clients are now adolescent girls with eating disorders”

Since the pandemic, most of the clients seen by Anne *, a Guildford-based psychotherapist, have been teenage girls with eating disorders. “I’m just inundated with young girls. During the lockdown, many families stayed at home and ate together. Eating disorders are really top secret, but during the pandemic people realized what was going on in their family units, ”she said, adding that eating disorders have also been on the increase since. years.

While worried parents, or the clients themselves, don’t always immediately identify social media as a contributing factor, the psychotherapist said it often comes up “when you start digging a little below.” Anne thinks aspiring to any idealized version is dangerous: “Some of my clients and their parents say, ‘She has Instagram, but she looks at the positive people, the influencers who promote healthy body imagery.’ For me, any type of body imagery that we promote is always something that we try to aspire to. So while this is something we would like to consider positive, we are already labeling a body type.

The psychotherapist said she had more and more younger clients referred to her, treating girls as young as nine years old for eating disorders. “I think social media and the pandemic have definitely made it worse. During the lockdown, we handed them devices because that was all they had to do – the school was online, it was the only way for them to interact with their peers, ”he said. she declared. “Eating disorders are all about control, and in a pandemic our world is very controlled by outside elements that we really can’t do anything about.”

Responding to the Wall Street Journal allegations, Karina Newton, public policy manager at Instagram, said in a blog post on Tuesday: “Although the story focuses on a limited set of findings and throws them in a negative light, we let’s keep this research going. It demonstrates our commitment to understanding the complex and difficult issues that young people may face, and informs all the work we do to help those experiencing these issues.

* Names have been changed

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