Commentary

Side Effects of Social Media

The 2017 State of the Academy (SOTA) statistics for students who feel body appearance insecurity “all the time” and spend less than an hour a day on social media is ten percent. The number of students who feel insecure all the time increases to 30 percent when looking at students who spend up to four hours on social media each day. Meanwhile, the percentage of Andover students who feel no body appearance insecurity drops from 41 percent to as low as 14 percent when comparing students who don’t spend time on social media (the former) and those who do (the latter). The pattern is clear: the more time students spend on social media, the more insecure they feel about their body appearance. Platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook are used by countless people — Andover students are no exception. These seemingly harmless posts that act as sneak-peeks into other people’s glamorous lives, however, have a negative, yet mostly unnoticed, impact on body confidence.

Nowadays, social networking is easy. People bring their electronic devices with them virtually everywhere, and phones make taking photos and posting simple. On the paths, at Paresky Commons, before classes, in the library — it doesn’t matter where you look; one will always be able to find students fixated on their phones, taking a picture of themselves, scrolling through Snapchat feeds, liking their friends’ photos, and laughing at funny filters. There is a culture of social media usage here at Andover that pervades many aspects of our life.

The pictures and videos students see on social media platforms, however, are not representative of how most people appear in reality. The countless videos or pictures of slim actors, actresses, and peers that students see on social media perpetuate beauty standards that students compare themselves to. The faulty standard is furthered because many online pictures are edited, which conceals any flaws of that person. This practice fuels other people’s need to also modify pictures of themselves. Thus, social media is flooded with glamorized photos that do not reflect reality.

Over time, the glossed-over reality on social media negatively affects how users view their own appearance. The more they look at edited photos, the more the misconception grows that one can only be attractive if they have what is considered a perfect body and blemish-free skin. The notion that one’s body appearance is abnormal or could be improved only leads to lower self-esteem regarding appearance and furthers the culture of viewing someone’s body appearance, instead of their character, as a judgement of their value. There is far more to any person than their body appearance, and no one should be assessed by how they look.

While breaking away from social media usage is difficult, we should all be aware that we are exposing ourselves to and accepting a very fake version of reality. Everyone must be extra mindful whenever they choose to edit, filter, and select pictures that they are making the choice to conceal their natural state. Over time, we should all strive to detach ourselves from the need to prettify ourselves before posting, which can be done first by taking time off of social media. Resist the urge to pick up your phone when you take a study break and instead read a book or talk to the people around you. When online, remind yourself to maintain a critical eye to all the content you view. Try to start the habit of posting a natural or unfiltered picture. Although accepting ourselves as we are can be difficult in this day and age, it is an endeavor that everyone should undertake for themselves.

We must be aware of how our social media usage influences our daily lives. Just recognizing the effect it has on our views of our own body is a huge step in the right direction. I understand that minimal social media usage is difficult for many people, but it is something we should all strive for. Also, remember that everyone is different. We must not let social media define how we see ourselves, when it so negatively impacts our confidence and our self-worth. We are worth far more than what we post on social media.

May 19, 2017