In this section, we will talk about what social media is, both the good and bad things about it, how the way we feel about the way we look can be affected by social media use, and what we can do to combat this.
What is social media?
Social media is the name for websites and applications that let people make and share information and ideas online. This includes sharing posts, stories, photos, videos, and connecting with other people online.
What is good about social media?
People are often told time and time again about the negatives associated with social media, however there are also good things about using social media. Some of these benefits include:
- Helping people to connect with others. This could be the friends you go to school with, or new people. For example, you might meet other people with CMN online. Check out our Instagram
- No matter what your interests are, there will be online communities of other like-minded people. This can help people to gain a stronger sense of belonging and give a sense of escapism from the real world.
- Can help to quickly raise awareness and knowledge of news and events. Social media shows people essential issues not only in their community but all over the world too. Young people are now empowered more than ever before to help and support people all over the world, even if it’s miles away from them.
- Can be a platform for action against discrimination (e.g., sexism, homophobia and racism). For example, the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Share your expertise. Social media gives you an opportunity to talk about what you know and what you want to be known for.
What can be bad about social media?
Although social media can be used for good, logging in can also have negative effects on our wellbeing and happiness. For example:
Feeling bad about yourself
- People’s social media accounts often don’t reflect reality. For example, only showing happy moments and not sad, sharing flattering images or even retouching images.
- Social media shows us the best parts of other people’s lives, which we can end up comparing to the negatives in our own lives. Comparing yourself to other people can make us feel bad about ourselves and feel like our own lives aren’t good enough.
- We can also end up comparing our appearance to others online, which can make us feel bad about the way we look. It’s important to remember that people online often use filters, plastic surgery and botox, and photoshop to make their appearance seem ‘perfect’.
- Bullies can hide behind fake social media accounts and send abusive messages or leave harmful comments on other people’s posts. If this happens, it’s important that report these comments and tell an adult who can help you. You can also ask your friends to report the comments, too. Please read below for more advice about staying safe online.
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
- This is a worried feeling that you get when you’re upset about missing out on a positive experience that someone else is having. Social media can make this worse because it can show you what you’re missing.
- Remember, people will often only show the highlights of their lives on social media, and therefore this isn’t representative of what their lives are actually like.
- It’s really easy to spend hours in bed scrolling through social media, meaning we are staying up later and getting less sleep. Try not to use your phone for 1 hour before bed; turning it off or putting it on sleep mode is a great way to avoid temptation!
If you notice any of these bad effects of social media in your own life, it could be time to start thinking about how to change how you log in.
Social Media and CMN
It is important to be aware of the pros and cons of social media use so that you can look out for times when social media may actually be more damaging to you than good.
Everyone makes social comparisons between themselves and others when they are feeling down or self-conscious, and unfortunately this can happen more often in those with a visible difference like CMN.
Here are some thoughts that someone might have when looking at other people on social media. Can you think of any you have had recently?
Comparing yourself to other people can make you feel down and upset about your own appearance. The good news is, we can do things to help! If you notice that your social media use is getting you down, try out some of these top tips to create a happier and healthier online space.
1. Unfollow accounts that make you unhappy.
If you find that you are comparing yourself to someone or a particular group of people often and it is making you feel down, unfollow them. If you aren’t sure, ask yourself:
– Am I following this account just because I like the way they look?
– Do I often think negatively about what my body looks like when I look at this account?
– Do I feel jealousy towards the person in this account, based on either their looks or their lifestyle?
Learn to spot when images have been retouched. Search ‘celebrity retouching’ to see examples of how drastically pictures are sometimes altered, it can be shocking! Start to assume that every image you see of a celebrity has been changed in some way.
2. Mute accounts from people you know but make you feel bad.
Unfollowing people that you know might cause unwanted tension or might upset the other person. Many social media platforms have the option to ‘mute’ someone; they won’t know that you’ve done this, but you won’t have to see their posts anymore.
3. Find and follow new accounts that do make you happy.
Find new and fun accounts that inspire you and make you happy. Make sure your feed is full of diversity and things that interest you, and make sure it’s full of positive content.
Instagram account recommendations:
@caringmattersnow, @car_uwe, @faceequalityint, @changingfaces,
@bodyimagepositive, @meganjaynecrabbe, @kennyethanjones, @jonolanc, @___chezza___, @albaparejo_, @gemm_lw, @lucy_bealll, @marynevus, @lovingmydots, @nevusespanol,
There are so many to choose from!
Tips for staying safe on social media
With so many of us using social media, ensuring you stay alert and safe on social media is essential. Here are some tips to stay safe on social media:
- Use a strong password.
- Use a different password for each social media account.
- Consider using a password app such as Last Pass to securely save your strong passwords.
- Set up security questions.
- Set up multifactor authentication. This uses your phone number, email address or an app such as Google Authenticator to send a code to you to sign in, meaning even if someone knows your password they still can’t get into your account.
- Make sure you password protect your devices e.g., mobile phones, tablets and laptops.
- Report any abusive or offensive comments and consider blocking people/accounts who write them.
- Only accept friend requests from people you know.
- Be careful about what you share. Remember, nothing can ever be truly deleted once it’s been posted online.
- Become familiar with the privacy policies of the social media accounts and customize your privacy settings to control who sees what.
- Be kind!
Please see these images for some examples of privacy settings on Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.
It’s completely normal to feel insecure about your body or appearance every now and then, and everyone will experience this at some point in their lives. However, living in a society that puts so much emphasis on our size, shape, weight, or appearance gives us a really narrow view of ourselves and makes us ignore all of the amazing things that our bodies do for us.
It’s important to remember that your appearance has nothing to do with your worth, and there are hundreds or thousands of more important and interesting things about you that have nothing to do with what you look like.
See if you can name 3 things about you (other than your appearance!) that you like. Think about what your friends or family would say. See if you can do the same for your friends or family.
For example, you might like how funny you are. You might like that you’re great at football. You might like that you have a lot of good friends.
‘Body functionality’ is a term which means everything that your body can do. When we start to appreciate this, we get a much more full and complex appreciation of ourselves and others. This in turn can improve our body image and how happy we feel in our skin.
Name 3 things you are grateful for about your body.
Tips to practice body functionality over appearance:
- Move in ways that make you happy. People often exercise for reasons to do with appearance, for example they might run because they are trying to lose weight. Instead, try to move in ways you enjoy. This means that we will find enjoyment out of our exercise instead of focussing on the way our bodies look.
- If you find yourself thinking negatively about a part of your body, then try to replace that thought with a positive one about your body functionality. For example, if you are thinking negatively about the way CMN looks on your leg, you could think to yourself ‘I’m grateful that my legs allow me to run/play football/dance’.
- Try to think every day about the things you are grateful for that your body can do and remember these can be from 6 different areas (watch the video above!)