The proliferation of social media sites has revolutionized our capacity to share and absorb knowledge. Body image difficulties, eating disorders, and anxiety have all increased in prevalence along with their use, particularly among teenagers and young people. Findings from the research published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology suggest that lowering social media usage by half may have a major impact on how young people perceive their own physical appearance and weight.
Participants were 220 undergraduates aged 17–25; 76% were female, 23% were male, and 1% identified as something else. All of the subjects were heavy smartphone users who spent at least two hours each day on social media and also suffered from anxiety or sadness. Participants were asked to use their social media accounts regularly throughout the first week of the experiment, with their use monitored by a screentime monitoring application via daily screenshots submitted by each participant. Half of the participants were then asked to limit their daily social media use to 60 minutes after the first week, while the other half were allowed to continue using the sites as usual.
After three weeks of the intervention, participants who decreased their social media usage had a more positive perception of their overall look and their body weight than the control group. Dr. Gary Goldfield, the study’s primary author, says that reducing social media usage is a practical way to provide a short-term beneficial impact on body image among a susceptible demographic of users and should be studied as a possible component in the treatment of body-image-related problems.
Findings from this study are in line with those from other studies indicating how time spent on social media might have a detrimental effect on self-perception and well-being. Adolescence is a pivotal time for positive body image formation, yet unhealthy preoccupation with appearance on social media platforms has been shown to increase the risk of developing an eating problem. The internalization of an unrealistic standard of beauty propagated by social media images of celebrities, fashion models, and fitness influencers may lead to dissatisfaction with one’s own physique and a consequent decline in self-esteem.
The present research employed a randomized control approach to better understand the causal consequences of lowering social media usage on body image, while many previous studies on social media, body image, and mental health have focused on correlations. After three weeks, the general appearance of individuals who reduced their social media usage to no more than 60 minutes per day improved, according to pilot research done by Goldfield and his colleagues with 38 undergraduates. Researchers were unable to separate out the impact of gender owing to a lack of data. Our new analysis doubled the sample size and eliminated the gender gap.
The findings show that limiting social media usage might help young people with mental health difficulties feel better about their bodies. The researchers are now undertaking a bigger investigation to see whether the psychological advantages of decreased social media usage persist over a longer time span. Although Goldfield and his colleagues acknowledge that cutting down on social media may have some immediate advantages, they also stress the need to consider the possible drawbacks, such as loneliness, boredom, and a reduction in social support.
The results of this research shed important light on the connection between social media and body image, suggesting that limiting time spent on these platforms may be an effective way to help young people who struggle with negative body image. Supporting young people who are particularly sensitive to the harmful impacts of social media and encouraging them to develop healthy social media habits is crucial. We can aid young people in developing a healthy body image and bettering their general well-being by decreasing their usage of social media and encouraging positive self-image.