For over a decade, social media has been a central part of the technology-fuelled society we live in. The power of social media to connect people worldwide, as well as to offer endless entertainment highlights some great benefits of using social media during lockdown. However, as a young woman, I cannot help but feel that this increased exposure has led to me feeling more hopeless and negative than positive and empowered.
Like many women, I have always had a difficult time fully accepting my body. The combination of unrealistic body images and societal beauty standards that are emphasised through social media has contributed to this over the years. Now, I feel this has worsened since lockdown began.
The Pressures of Social Media
When I first heard that confinement would be taking place, I felt optimistic. More time indoors, and with my family, meant a break from the stresses of university, and mental space to recuperate from the whirlwind that 2020 has already been. But this has not been the case. The majority of messages posted on social media I have encountered in the past few weeks have primarily been centered around changing your body during lockdown. I am an advocate for women being proud of who they are, where they are from, and how they look. Yet, I am finding it difficult to stop myself from comparing my body to those of other women online. Due to, inevitably, spending more time on social media, I have felt pressured to work on “improving” my body image during lockdown.
While exercising and eating clean is essential for keeping both a healthy body and mind, young women should not feel forced to conform to harmful stereotypes of what the best body on social media is. My view is that a transformation in mental state and health is a lot more important in trying times like these than striving to look or be somebody you are not.As a result of the current restrictions in movement, people are spending more time with their own thoughts. This has led to a tendency to foster negative feelings, which I feel has been encouraged by a level of toxicity coming from social media. Women are constantly exposed to deep-rooted sexist notions of beauty through social media imagery.
Women are constantly exposed to deep-rooted sexist notions of beauty through social media imagery. The persistent exposure to this kind of bodily ideals can lead people, and particularly women, to feel that beauty is only ‘one size fits all’.
The persistent exposure to this kind of bodily ideals can lead people, and particularly women, to feel that beauty is only ‘one size fits all’. This is especially harmful to younger women who tend to be more impressionable. When the line between the virtual and real worlds is so thin, it can be hard to find confidence in your own body, if it does not look a certain way that is considered beautiful online. This is a particular struggle I faced whilst going through adolescence. Having thought about ways to combat this pressure, I have developed some tips for myself to feel better. By sharing these I hope that it can help many women who feel similar.
Taking care of your social media life
Firstly, don’t believe everything on social media as accurate, and take everything with a pinch of salt. Influencers and celebrities are human too. Although their lives and appearances may look consistently perfect online, everyone has good and bad days. Whilst I know this may be easier said than done, it is a tip I have really been trying to abide by, and it has helped me to accept that there is no ‘perfect’ body or lifestyle.
I have also been following more body-positive and inspiring social media accounts, who value empowerment and self-love over losing weight. This has definitely been beneficial to improving my overall mindset. I recommend the young journalist Sophia Smith Galer, a pioneer in ‘Tik Tok journalism’, as well as body-positive Instagram accounts such as Iskra Lawrence and Chessie King. They all promote positivity, self-love, and determination to succeed in your chosen career.
The coronavirus pandemic has offered many challenges in relation to mental, emotional, and physical health. However, we can find ways to make it a source of well-being.
I have found listening to podcasts motivating and would particularly recommend TED talks. I often feel I learn something new about the world, or even myself, through listening to them. As a history student, I enjoy podcasts such as ‘You’re dead to me’, which involves a historian and comedian discussing historical events. I also love female-focused podcasts such as ‘The Receipts Podcast’ which talks all-things girl power! Podcasts are overall a great way to keep your brain active. They make physical activity more enjoyable and also help to block any anxious thoughts you may have whilst alone.
Taking time offline
In addition to the above, I have enjoyed maintaining my physical health during lockdown through going on long walks to take a break from the online world, and appreciate the beautiful world we live in. It is also important to keep your emotional health in check. The best way I have found to do this is by communicating with loved ones about my feelings and talking through any dilemmas that I am finding hard to address by myself. Conversations with extended family or friends, whether over the phone or on face-calls or simply just talking to those you are isolated with, are all good ways of letting emotions out. I am a firm believer that a problem shared is a problem halved!
The coronavirus pandemic has offered many challenges in relation to mental, emotional, and physical health. However, we can find ways to make it a source of well-being. Social media, if used right, can be a powerful tool to connect friends and family at a time when we need it most. It can also offer creative inspiration as well as a place, where we can learn to love ourselves. Social media is what you make it. So remember that not everything you see online is true, so just be proud of who you are!