Social Media, it's not all bad.

This week were supporting Eating Disorder Awareness week and as someone who works in social media, I thought I would share my thoughts on a rather unhealthy narrative that’s been floating around.

Beat are doing an incredible job to de-mystify Eating Disorders (ED’s) and tackling the myths around them. A prevalent myth is that Eating Disorders are caused by the media and only affect girls in their teens to mid-twenties. This simply isn’t true. The media, and specifically social media, doesn’t directly cause Eating Disorders and anyone can suffer from an Eating Disorder no matter what their age, gender identity or social class. But we have to acknowledge the power that social media has to influence us and the fact that it’s reach knows no bounds.

There are countless unhealthy spaces in social media related to ED’s but the biggest one I’ve noticed is the narrative that you can only be suffering from an ED if you’re emaciated, with collar and hip bones sticking out, but this is just one face of a multi-faced condition. ED’s don’t present in the same way and the same condition will vary from person to person. This narrative of a particular body type is not an uncommon one. Further afield, outside the articles and blogs and damaging hashtags (I’m looking at you hashtag ana) there is this idea of an ‘ideal’ body type which, apart from not being true, can be really damaging when it’s repeated to you day in and day out. From your favourite influencers to the Facebook ads – it’s relentless.

As I mentioned above, social media is not a cause of ED’s but it is a space that can reinforce the view that your body is disgusting and you must take control which is unhealthy for most of us but especially toxic for those of us suffering, or recovering, from an ED.

This doesn’t mean it’s time to delete your Instagram and de-activate your Facebook. There is an infinite amount of joy and happiness on all these platforms, you just need to find it. Think of your feed as a gallery and every person with an account is an artist. If someone’s imagery makes you feel negative, why would you keep them in your gallery and give them that power over you? Unfollow them. I know it’s not as dramatic as tearing them off the wall and chucking them in the bin but hit that unfollow button! Co-worker? Classmate? Family member? We have no time for it. In the bin with them.

Curate your gallery to be something that makes you smile when you log in. It’s easier said than done if you’re following loads of if you’re following loads of influencers trying to sell you this fantastic and unattainable lifestyle, your explore feed will be filled with very similar content. It will take time but as soon as you start following and engaging with the content that makes you feel good, it will all change and you will be surrounded by more of your feel-good content.

For me, it started with following @thehappynewspaper. Emily is an incredibly talented illustrator and only shares GOOD news. News and facts that are bound to put a smile on your face and shine a light on the good in the world. Slowly I started to see more content like Emily’s every time I wondered over to that explore feed.

 

Then I came across @Em_clarkson and she is like a ray of good vibes. I don’t mean in a ‘smiles for miles’ sort of way. Emily recently had her jaw surgically broken and has been sharing quality memes of herself in her cooling mask looking like ET. She is a breath of fresh air in the ‘influencer’ world, openly talking about the good side of exercise, food and that toenail she lost because of her runs.

 

After this, it was really just a tunnel of recommendations until I ended up with a feed that rarely makes me feel inadequate or insecure. That’s not to say never, there will always be moments because of the comparative nature of social media and a strong sense of self critiquing, but that’s not the point. It might be that Emily Clarkson doesn’t make you laugh when she dribbles down her bib and that’s ok. You’ve got to find the thing that makes you smile, whether it’s interiors, hand lettering, LadBaby or @weratedogs.

 

What I will say, is try to avoid the ‘body positivity’ influencers who are constantly telling you to love your body and that no matter what, you’re perfect. Although it’s true that you’re pretty great, we’re human and we’re not perfect. We can’t love ourselves 24/7 because it’s exhausting to try and fight those feelings that tell you the opposite and in the long run, not worth it. You’ve got to feel the rubbish feelings as well as the good ones.

It’s easy to feel like you have no control over what’s expected of you, your eating habits, your body and life, but there are little things you can take control of in a healthy way that can help to alter a lot of those outside influences and toxic narratives and make the rubbish feelings crop up a little less and hopefully, not feel so overwhelming.

Eating Disorders are real issues that can cause significant amounts of damage to our mental and physical wellbeing and shouldn’t be brushed off as just ‘emotional eating’ or be glorified for ‘how skinny’ you look. The real important thing, is your health. If you’re struggling, you can reach out to Beat anytime. Remember that you are deserving of support.