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Social media has a powerful role to play in body positivity

Amongst our generation the rise of social media has had detrimental effects on our body image. However, some are pioneering change and using social media to its advantages.

By Ffion Clarke, Online Comment Editor

Amongst our generation the rise of social media has had detrimental effects on our body image. However, some are pioneering change and using social media to its advantages.

Social media is an integral part of our lives, with platforms currently holding 3.196 billion worldwide users.

Measurements of self-worth are dangerously changing following this, with social media now an influential factor in this. As perceptions of ourselves and of others are increasingly based on what we put out on social media, the platforms are saturated with misrepresentations and exaggerations. Most people will admit to trying to portray their best lives by only showing their highlights reel. Many others even use apps, such as Facetune, to physically change the way they look.

Standards are therefore incredibly high, while we measure our own worthiness in comparison to this.

According to a study by The Florida House Experience, 22.8% of women and 17.81% of men believe that social media impacts the way they feel about their body. While, looking in the mirror was only a factor to 1.15% of women and 1.55% of men. Clearly, this issue is about comparison to unattainable goals, not an inherent dislike of ourselves. It must therefore be solved by shifting away from the negative imagery pushed by social media.

It is also essential to deal with this issue as those with negative body image issues are likely to experience heightened depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies than those without them. Even when compared to other with differing mental illnesses which do not concern body image.

However, just saying social media is bad and we should move away from it does not solve anything. The statistics show that it is an embedded part of society and has changed the way we interact. Moving away from social media is unsustainable and unattainable.

It must also be noted that social media itself is not the issue, but the large platform it has given these inacurrate body and lifestyle norms.

As has been discussed by body positive campaigner, Jameela Jamil, it is much easier to find this negative imagery in a system where the algorithm continually feeds you with similar content. While in the magazine years of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s you would have to make more of an effort to find such imagery.

Feminist campaigner Scarlett Curtis, has also highlighted that the size of this platform and its ability to deeply indoctrinate can also be used for the alternative purpose of improving body posivity. While, in previous years it would have also been difficult to flood yourself with imagery of real people in order to incite body positivity.

The capacity of this movement is seen with the 7.1 million posts using the hashtag ‘body positive’ on Instagram, with further posts using other tags such as ‘all bodies are good bodies’ with 206,000 tags.

The aforementioned Jamil has made waves in this movement with her Instagram account ‘I weigh’. This must be praised for its encouragement that women liberate themselves from the shackles of beauty standards, as they post photos of themselves with descriptions of what makes them who they are. Thousands of women following the hashtag have consequently highlighted their personal self-worth outside of looks and objectification. The impact of this is clear with its recent achievement of 162,000 Instagram followers.

The online body positive movement however faces difficulty, as the aesthetics-driven nature of Instagram means that the platforms given to women are continually given to those who conform with societal norms of conventional attractiveness.

It is easy for the movement to be coopted away from the black and disabled women the movement was initially created for, if its intersectionality is ignored.

Jamil's use of a separate 'I weigh' account is however particularly impactful, as she attempts to remove focus from her name and onto the every day women posting these pictures. She is also outspoken about the unfairness she recognises is present with the fact she is often the one receiving praise for this movement and is actively attempting to create space for these women.

While social media demonstrates destructive tendencies, it is important to praise those correctly using the platform instead of belittling this space as a whole. Such a focus will not have much of an effect with the addictive nature of social media and its consequent hold on society. However, individuals like Jamil are proving that social media's huge normalising power can be used for good.

Featured Image: Instagram/I_weigh

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