Selfies have been linked to eating disorders, plastic surgery, and even suicides, but the trend is not abating according to health workers and social media users.
Instagram model Essena O’Neill drew attention to the negative impacts of social media earlier this month when she quit the popular social media platform, calling it “fake”.
Sydney sociologist Dr Greg Martin told The Newsroom social media had a huge negative impact on how teenage girls perceived themselves, with users reporting greater concerns, mental health and body image issues than non-users.
“Young teenagers are using social media in an unhealthy way, leading to negative foundations of bad physical and mental health upon their lives,” said Dr Martin.
“People constantly search for a part of them that they can be proud of but even if the mirror cracks you won’t be able to see your own ideal self, it’s a reflection of what you want to be that changes the way you view yourself.”
Jenna Ryan, beautician and part-time model at Victoria’s Secret, told The Newsroom that young women were going out of their way to take good photos for social media and were even having plastic surgery to improve their appearance and receive more attention.
“Selfies and pictures, in general, are causing me serious issues with my self-esteem and body image,” Ms Ryan said.
“I usually spend a great amount of time grooming myself before I go out because I know that I will be taking photos. I got a boob job and a butt implant to improve my selfies and, as a beautician, I receive more clients and fame on my blog because of how I look and carry on.
“I take selfies everywhere I go. It has become a habit.”
Markita Manuel, a business manager in Sydney, told The Newsroom she competed in last year’s “No Makeup Selfie” viral campaign that raised over $2 million for charity by asking women to post a bare-faced selfie under the caption #nomakeupselfie.
“I entered the no makeup selfie campaign earlier this year to raise money for cancer awareness. Seeing all those selfies without makeup made me feel better about myself,” said Mrs Manuel.
“Selfies are causing me harm because I feel as if I’m constantly pressured to compete on social media with my peers in terms of the photographs that we post and how many likes and comments we receive.”
Thinspiration is an example of dangerous online movements that young teenage girls have become involved in. Instead of posting pictures of healthy and fit women, the photos display thigh gaps and visible ribs under the hashtags: #thinspiration and #bodygoals.
Western Sydney dietician Heather West told The Newsroom that she’s dealt with a lot of teenage girls who blamed social media for a negative impact on their diet. Ms West believes it teaches them how to “hate themselves instead of love the skin they are in”.
“Not being healthy isn’t the problem, it’s that social media users are supporting negative movements promoting that the skinnier you are the more you’ll fit in whilst we all know that in the end our differences makes us who we are as individuals,” said Mrs West. – Soheir Adas
— ㅤ (@SKlNNYANGEL) November 12, 2015
— Fjaerlett (@fjaderlatt) November 12, 2015
Top photo of self-weight machine by Ben Atkinson-James