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Social Media: A Dystopia for Body Image

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As of 2024, nearly one-third of all Instagram users are between the ages of 25 and 34 years old, an age at which a person is wise enough to know healthy values. However, as schools and the internet promote the platform toward younger audiences, the question arises: Do unrealistic perceptions of reality have a negative influence on high school students?

Instagram is a social media platform developed by Meta, marketed as a “free photo and video sharing app.” The platform also allows users to explore new communities and create new memories in addition to the interactive photo filters they offer. The online environment of Instagram curates opportunities for its users to meet new people and share their lives with friends and family. 

However, there is a darker side to social media.

Olivia Rodrigo at the 2024 Grammys, Photo Courtesy Olivia Rodrigo Official Instagram

“If a certain video of a really pretty girl pops up on my ‘For You’ page,” CHS senior Ella Allum said. “I sometimes tell myself ‘Aw man, I wish I looked like her.’”

Instagram tailors every user’s experience by collecting information on their recently viewed posts and curating a stream of similar posts for the user to see. These posts will appear on the user’s “For You” page, a mosaic of ads, photos and reels related to the user’s interests. 

Although this feature heavily increases the engagement and likeability of the app, this feature can create a negative space where obsessions like body dysmorphia are perpetuated.

“In terms of the broader impact of social media on students, it’s essential to recognize that social media often contributes to feelings of isolation, anxiety and low self-esteem. The constant comparison to online peers can create unrealistic expectations and fuel a sense of inadequacy,” CHS school counselor Darren Benson said. 

For those going through mental health crises, Instagram can fuel and even aggravate these emotions. When Benson taught social media literacy, he and his students participated in a seven-day social media fast. He recalled certain difficulties with the task among students.

“[One of the students] did a lot of online shopping during that time, because she had to replace the addiction with something else,” Benson said.

Selena Gomez’s Instagram Feed, Photo Courtesy Selena Gomez Official Instagram

Even with the prevalence of social media among teenagers, students at CHS seem to understand the boundary between self-care and self-indulgence. 

“People don’t care what you look like,” Beth Conger said. “It’s about your decisions that impact the world.”

When asked about ways to mitigate negative thoughts about one’s body image, Taylor Hill explained that talking about it with other people and finding ways to love yourself is critical. 

Social media continues to be a prevalent aspect of contemporary society and the issues regarding its impact on adolescents’ body image continue to be a relevant issue worth addressing. Building trust between peers is key in preventing feelings of isolation, anxiety, or negativity that could arise from social media use.

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Florence Liang, Staff Writer

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