You can see the world and connect with influencers or celebrities you adore — the possibilities truly are endless.
But social media also has a dark side.
While apps like Instagram and TikTok are intended to be used to connect with others, there are also thousands of profiles and trends that support unhealthy behaviors, such as extreme dieting or exercising. This, in turn, encourages eating disorders and other forms of self-harm.
These trends existed long before the pandemic, but they have become worse throughout it. For example, TikTok has thousands of recent videos titled “diet hack” or “lose 10lbs in a week," while the videos under #quarantinediet have 12.7 million views alone.
This is unacceptable. For one, diets have been proven time and time again to be unsuccessful, and while results may seen in the short term, they are minimal in the long term.
Additionally, starvation and other fad diets are known to be incredibly unhealthy for the body. They can cause a loss of bone density and even permanent changes to the metabolism. If someone truly believes that they need to (or want to!) lose weight, they should look for tips from a professional — not their favorite influencer.
Not only are these diets themselves incredibly toxic and unhealthy, but the ways in which they are presented worsen them tenfold. Nobody wants to be schooled about their weight by someone who is already "conventionally" thin (and who claims to use these diet tips to become even thinner).
Influencers and social media profiles that promote these unhealthy weight loss tips are telling impressionable followers that they are not good enough, and that they have to look and eat like them to be pretty, thin and accepted.
The obsession with diet culture needs to stop. Research suggests that there is a distinctive link between social media and the onset of eating disorders, especially among young people. As COVID-19 continues to prevent us from in-person social interactions, people are turning to social media as an alternative at higher rates than before, which has been proven to negatively impact mental health.
However, all is not lost. Many sites and apps have passed regulations and created special features to limit the negative effects of media. For instance, Instagram updated its policies to prevent users under the age of 18 from coming across weight loss aids and other similar products.
While these changes are much needed and important, they are not enough. Social media platforms must continue to make changes to protect young users from diet and exercise trends. Only then can social media really return to what it's supposed to be — a fun and stress-free way to spend your time.