The proliferation of social media has led to myriad effects on social media users’ behavioral health. It is not difficult to locate articles and social media posts with headlines like “Instagram is ruining self-esteem” or “Tik Tok is making eating disorders worse”(Duffy, 2021). While emergent news and research largely focus on the harmful effects of social media, such as negative body image and worsened self-esteem, social media can also be a catalyst for recovery and community-building among individuals impacted by eating disorders. For example, social media can connect individuals affected by eating disorders to a multitude of helpful resources, including recovery stories, or those that promote eating disorder awareness and body positivity. In addition, social media feeds can be tailored to accounts focused on recognizing behaviors associated with eating disorders, increasing self-esteem and positive self-perceptions, and engaging in content that promotes healing. Further, social media can enable users to share their own experiences while also providing control over the amount of personal information they share and restricting the followers that can view their content (Mirhashem, 2015).   

Here are a few tips for utilizing social media to promote healing and healthy habits:  

  • Be intentional. Fill your social media feed with accounts and people that promote recovery from eating disorders.  
  • Use social media for inspiration. Identify social media accounts that inspire you and avoid those that make you feel the need to compare yourself.  
  • Take a social media break. Avoid social media for designated periods. This reset can help you refocus and remind you of the aspects of social media you appreciate.  
  • Follow the Living Free Lab on Instagram and Twitter for similar content. 

References 

Duffy, J. (2021, October 5). Instagram’s grim appeal as a silent self-esteem breaker. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2021/10/05/health/instagram-self-esteem-parenting-wellness/index.html  

Kay, J. (2018, February 21). How Social Media Led Me to Recovery.  https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/how-social-media-led-me-recovery 

Mirhashem, M. (2015, April 07). Overcoming an Eating Disorder With Instagram. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/overcoming-an-eating-disorder-with-instagram/387658/  

By Katie Olson

Katie will be a second-year graduate student at UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work in the fall, and this is her first year working in the Living F.R.E.E. Lab.

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