The dark side of social media: Body image issues in teens | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 31, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 31, 2020

Fitness & Travel

The dark side of social media: Body image issues in teens

As Bangladeshis, we cannot even step out of our front door without getting a few judgmental glances or at least a snide comment about our bodies. They make us feel insecure in our own skin, making even the simple task of looking in the mirror morbidly torturous.

As exposure to social media increases, Bangladeshi teens find themselves comparing their young, adolescent bodies to the perfectly toned and perhaps Photoshopped images of famous models and personalities. This may take a toll on both their physical and mental health. They learn to associate worth and success in life with the way their body looks in the mirror. These physical “defects” are often not even noticeable to others. However, this mental image is an internal driving force in eating disorders, severe anxiety and depression.

Gaining popularity on social media

Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram or any other online platforms, people get a lot of positive attention by losing weight. This can be dangerous for teens with low self-esteem and distorted body image issues. The likes, thumbs-up and comments on their photos can act as reinforcement for continuing to drastically lose weight, despite health concerns. Bangladeshis have a clear image in their head of the perfect human being, irrespective of gender. Teens tend to gravitate towards that form and leave no stone unturned in order to achieve it.

Fantasy vs reality

“When I look at other people’s photos, the comparison is inevitable. I end up feeling awful. I opened Photoshop to change how I looked in my Facebook profile picture. After enhancing it a lot, I saw the picture and stopped myself, thinking ‘This is not who I am’”, said an 18-year old Bangladeshi teen. However, most people at that age don’t reach that conclusion, instead unrealistically strive for the fictional ‘perfect’ look.

Whether the photos the teenagers see online are raw or Photoshopped, these photos are ultimately used as a standard of comparison. They don’t often realise that they are battling body image issues because of the widespread proliferation of the unrealistic beauty standards set by what they see on social media.

Consequences of online exposure

People use online platforms to say things they’d never say to your face. It is easy to express their negative and derogatory opinions hiding behind their phone screens. Simple things such as comments and tweets may seem harmless, but they impact teens in an extensively negative way. The world has reached such a stage where people determine their worth from judgments of people they never even met. 

Instagram models post photos and promote weight loss supplements as their secret to that perfect body. This is spreading the idea that diet pills, detox teas and supplements are the best way to achieve that body type, while in reality, it could not be further from the truth and are actually very detrimental to your health.

Do yourself a favor. Stop comparing yourself with these photos online and start realising that you will never look exactly like those people, because even they don’t look like that in real life. It’s not easy, but start believing in yourself and do a favour to your self-esteem. Exercise, eat right and take care of yourself. Love yourself for who you are.

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