New study finds Instagram has devastating effects on body image

Women deserve better than social media pressuring to look a certain way. 

If you’re a woman, Instagram usage may negatively influence your appearance-related concerns and beliefs.

New research from the University of NSW and Macquarie University has confirmed what many of us have known intuitively for some time: there exists a link between body image concerns and viewing images of seemingly flawless women via photo-sharing social media platforms.

In fact, the research, which surveyed 276 Australian and American women aged between 18 and 25 years, has found that spending as little as thirty minutes a day on Instagram is enough to prompt a woman to self-objectify, fixate on her weight and appearance, and value her body for its appearance above its health and physical functions.

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The data has shown too that those of us who compare ourselves to celebrities are more likely to self-objectify. And the more “fitspo”, or fitness inspiration, images we view online, the more likely we are to perceive our bodies in a negative light.

Interestingly, a 2017 report published by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) ranked Instagram as the worst of five social media platforms regarding mental health and wellbeing. Take a cursory look at Instagram and the reasons it is thought to be driving feelings of “inadequacy and anxiety among young people” quickly become apparent.  

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To combat poor body image and celebrate body diversity, one of Australia’s leading voices on the issues of eating disorders and negative body image, the Butterfly Foundation, launched a campaign. Love Your Body Week, which coincided with this year’s Body Image and Eating Disorder Awareness Week (BIEDAW), encouraged users of social media to stop appearance-based talk and instead post positive body messages with a “My body is great because...”.

Butterfly Foundation’s chief executive Christine Morgan said, “Our fast-paced digital world is fuelled by highly influential images glorifying body objectification and promoting the social benefits of body obsession. We need to work together with young people to build a counter-movement that promotes true body confidence to head-off growth in anxiety and depression experienced by young people”.

In this vein, the Australian research provides a timely reminder that social media is not benign–it can influence us in a variety of different ways. So, when we use platforms such as Instagram, let us remember that these images are carefully curated, so much so that often even the women in the images do not look like themselves.

If you or anybody you know requires support, it can be found. To access the Butterfly National Helpline, please call 1800 33 4673 from 8:00am to 9:00pm AEST.

Please join Collective Shout in our commitment to protecting girls and young women.

About the Author: Violeta Buljubasic detests pornography and anything that resembles it. Cognisant of its devastating consequences, she believes that porn and the raunch culture from which it stems are symptoms of a ubiquitous ill that has removed sex and sexuality from their original design. Moved by the work of Collective Shout, Fight the New Drug, and NCOSE, Violeta hopes to be part of the solution to this insidious problem.


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