By Jane Sandwood
The vast proliferation of social media in the past 15 years has had an impact on self-image for people of all ages, with 60% of people reporting a diminished sense of confidence in relation to social media use. While some may choose to abscond from social media completely, for others it’s a necessary tool for networking and staying connected. Enjoying the benefits of social media does not have to come at the cost of your mental health. You can take steps to maintain a positive self-image while still engaging on social media.
Remember that Photography is Storytelling
If you spend a lot of time on social media, the lines between image and reality may begin to blur. You may forget you’re seeing only part of someone’s life, typically the most attractive side of it, and find yourself comparing the gritty reality of your own to their highly curated version. Furthermore, on social media, your whole being is reduced to a visual image. The emphasis on appearance can have detrimental effects on body image, especially for girls and young women. Art is a great way to remind yourself that you can create beauty in the world beyond what your face and body have to offer. Experimenting with photography can also be a highly effective medium for overcoming the constrictions of social media. Printing and framing a photo collage can show a dynamic range of experiences and serve as a reminder that you are more than just your profile picture. Focusing the camera away from yourself, and towards people you meet, exotic landscapes and interesting objects can help foster a greater appreciation for beauty in the world and help you see more of it in yourself.
Spend Time With Loved Ones IRL
A system dependent on likes and follows fosters a sense of dependency on the validation of others. For some, this can reinforce narcissistic behavioral patterns, while others may experience depression or anxiety as a result. Attention can become addictive and all-consuming in the social media landscape, where clicks may be rewarded, not only in terms of social capital, but financially as well. Spending time in the company of friends and loved ones can serve as a reminder that human connection is about more than just gaining followers. Spontaneous conversations, laughter and meals shared build social bonds that are stronger than influencer status, and foster a multi-dimensional perspective of human experience, rather than reducing it to a two-dimensional image.
Find Positive People to Follow
The body positivity movement has grown out of the need for balance and prescriptive in a culture consumed with appearance. Body positive accounts promote self-acceptance and offer guidance and wisdom to boost your confidence. Seeing a diverse range of bodies celebrated for their unique beauty can help you break free of your own self-doubt. Through body positive social media movements, even mainstream media has begun to shift away from a cookie-cutter image of beauty to embrace more diversity.
Making conscious choices to protect your mental health is crucial when using social media. While social media can be pleasurable and useful, remember it is not the sum total of human experience. Take time to appreciate aspects of yourself and your life that don’t exist on a screen.
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