Editing, filters, and retouched influencers are detrimental to self-confidence, especially for younger users. While it’s something that many observers have suspected for a while, this harmful effect has now been confirmed by a new study, with researchers concluding that in order to have a more positive body image, young users should quit social media or…
Editing, filters, and retouched influencers are detrimental to self-confidence, especially for younger users.
While it’s something that many observers have suspected for a while, this harmful effect has now been confirmed by a new study, with researchers concluding that in order to have a more positive body image, young users should quit social media or at least reduce their time spent on it.
It’s a phenomenon that’s impossible to miss, whether on Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok — the numerous posts praising fit and toned bodies and faces, free from imperfections, and that’s even before taking into account the countless influencers who use filters to look their best.
It’s a trend that has contributed to a boom in certain medical and cosmetic surgery procedures, which demonstrates how the time spent on social media has a considerable impact on self-image, and more generally on confidence and well-being.
A study conducted by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Canada, in collaboration with the American Psychological Association, reveals that reducing social media use can significantly improve teenagers’ and young adults’ perceptions of their own bodies.
Published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media, the study looked at the self-perceptions of dozens of teens and young adults with limited access to social media.
The work, conducted in two phases, a pilot phase and then a larger study, concluded that reducing their social media use by 50% significantly improved how they felt about their weight and overall appearance in just a few weeks.
“Our brief, four-week intervention using screentime trackers showed that reducing social media use yielded significant improvements in appearance and weight esteem in distressed youth with heavy social media use,” says Dr. Gary Goldfield, lead author of the study.
No more than 60 minutes a day
The researchers conducted an initial pilot study with 38 students, some of whom were asked to reduce their social networking to no more than one hour per day.
While the small-scale research showed an improvement in the way participants perceived their overall appearance, a more in-depth study with a larger sample was needed to verify the results.
Scientists at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario research institute therefore repeated the experiment with 220 undergraduate students aged 17 to 25, the majority of whom were women, who were considered to be regular users of social networks — at least two hours a day — and had symptoms of depression or anxiety.
For the purposes of this work, the researchers first asked all the participants to use social networks without restriction, then limited this use to a maximum of 60 minutes per day for half of the participants.
During the following three weeks, the latter saw their use limited to 50% of their usual consumption, which was an average of 78 minutes per day, compared to an average of 188 minutes for the control group.
Questionnaires on the perception of their weight, their appearance and their self-esteem were then administered.
The results were clear: the participants who reduced their social network consumption felt better about themselves, and had a better perception of their body weight and overall appearance. All in less than a month’s time.
“Reducing social media use is a feasible method of producing a short-term positive effect on body image among a vulnerable population of users and should be evaluated as a potential component in the treatment of body-image-related disturbances,” concludes Dr. Gary Goldfield.
The researchers decided to pursue their research in order to determine if an even longer period of time away from social media, or with limited use of it, could be even more beneficial on the esteem and confidence of younger users.
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