Actress Kate Beckinsale once said, “I always felt that anorexia was the form of breakdown most readily available to adolescent girls.” The truth in that statement is more prominent now than ever before. Today’s youth is so dependent on the use of social media that they have prioritized their number of "likes," over their mental and physical health. The false representation of "realistic" body images in advertising, the dependency on "likes" for validation, the comparing of one’s self to unrealistic images, and the promotion of dieting and "thinness" through social media are all factors towards the increase of anorexia in young girls.
It has been proven that there is a direct correlation between the use of social media and the formation of eating disorders.
With the advertising of clothing and other fashion products, it is not uncommon to see a supermodel wearing the merchandise. Companies use this as a way to manipulate their audiences into believing that their products will make you look just as good as the people that sponsor them. The exposure of these unrealistic representations of beauty is negatively influencing teenagers today.
“People featured in advertisements are generally female, young, thin, and attractive," Dr. Slater explains, "A content analysis of adverts found on sites that appeal to adolescent girls showed likely exposure to those reinforcing the importance of beauty and thinness’."
The use of unrealistic body types in the media isn’t the only way advertising has had a negative effect on the mental and physical health of teenagers today. The media influences teens to change their bodies, promoting eating disorders and the "steps" they should take in order to achieve a weight goal.
“I recently interviewed a 17-year-old girl whose anorexia had been sparked by one of these websites. She showed me a red bracelet sent to her by some guy in America when she joined the pro-ana movement, reflecting, 'When the hunger gets too much, when I think I'm going to give in, I touch it and remind myself it's stronger to starve.' Who's running these sites, and what their motivation might be, is anyone's guess. The fact they exist, entirely unregulated and accessible to any teenage girl (or boy) in the privacy of their bedroom, is a scandal” -- "Is Social Media BehindThe Rise?"
These websites give insight to teenagers on how and why to form an eating disorder. The availability of these websites is exceedingly dangerous to the health and well-being of today’s youth.
Another contributing factor involved in the formation of eating disorders due to social media is the relentless obsession that some teens have with "likes." Most social media websites give you the option to "like" or just ignore a person’s post. The more people that like a photo, the more popular it is. This system of "likes" has been proven to be a direct link to the dependency of a high number of likes to maintain or build one’s self-esteem.
Kathleen McCarthy, author of the article “Hungry For Likes…” stated in her writings that “Frequent Facebook users share a greater risk of eating disorders, according to a new study of 960 college women that found that more time on Facebook was associated with higher levels of disordered eating. The women who reported the highest levels of disordered eating were those who placed greater importance on receiving comments and "likes" on their status updates.”
The increasing number of social media users has caused a reliance on "likes" for teenagers. The sense of popularity that accompanies a large number of "likes" fulfills some people in a way that they cannot otherwise find. Some companies promote weight loss as an extremely positive thing that is in no way harmful to one’s self-esteem or mental health.
“Even if you're not actively looking for encouragement with an eating disorder, even if you avoid the internet, you can't avoid the overwhelming message of our age: that weight loss is good, weight gain is bad; that thinner (harder, leaner, greener) is better. We live in a hyper-visual age, with most of us confronting thousands of images every day. The focus on women's bodies is intense, in every magazine, website or TV ad, on every billboard and celebrity shot, and in the conversations of friends, mothers and sisters around us”-- "Is Social Media Behind The Rise?"
It is essential that the websites promoting eating disorders and advertising ways to starve yourself, be shut down.
“Such pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites offer tips on how to avoid food (drink ice-cold water; chew ice cubes; brush your teeth; go for a run; look at yourself naked and pinch your fat). They suggest starting a 'Fasting Journal' and posting 'inspirational' images of your ribcage, shoulder blades, or thigh gap. They even offer advice on how to hide your eating disorder from your family”-- "Selfie Anorexics."
To add to the list of reasons, social media has not only been proven to cause eating disorders, but it also incites the comparing of one’s body type to another person they see online-- causing a drastic decline of his or her self-esteem. This low level of confidence often takes part in the formation of an eating disorder.
“'With one click of a button, very vulnerable young people are able to access 10,000 images of 'perfect-looking' people, which places them under a lot of pressure. ‘Young people who look at these images often develop body-image dissatisfaction because they're constantly comparing themselves to these perfect images.“-- "Is Social Media Behind The Rise?"
It is often said that staring at a photo of yourself for too long will cause you to hate it. The truth factor of this belief doubles when paired with comparing the image to another person. Young people often feel the need to live up to some sort of standard that models or celebrities have set for them on social media. They feel as though changing themselves, their weight especially, will result in an increase of beauty. The problem with this is that it is impossible to be satisfied when you’ve set too high of standards. Some people might not even realize that they could be suffering from a disorder, just by changing a part of their lifestyle to fit an unrealistic expectation.
“Meanwhile, a form of disordered eating known as orthorexia is becoming increasingly mainstream, fueled by the mania for healthy eating and our growing anxiety around obesity. Orthorexia is somewhere on the blurred boundary between being health-conscious and a health obsessive. It is defined as a 'fixation with righteous or correct eating'- but what begins as an attempt to improve one's lifestyle can morph into an unhealthy fixation."-- "Is Social Media Behind The Rise?"
Society’s narrow-minded perception of beauty in the media has caused a drastic negativity to form around the way teenagers see themselves. The media has been a contributing factor to the increase in popularity of eating disorders. The setting of false expectations, displaying of unrealistic body types in advertisements, and the teenage dependency on "likes" for self-validation has allowed the media to embody a direct correlation to the formation of eating disorders.