Social media is a tricky one, not just in the context of mental health, but full stop. It’s like a completley different world, one where you can say anything you want because you aren’t face to face. One where you can be who you want to be. Being who you want to be can be great, because it gives you an opportunity to express yourself in the way that YOU want to, without being judged, but it can also be extremely negative, because it can allow people to exploit and lie about their own identities. That’s just the general issue with social media, but in today’s post I’m going to be focussing on the impact of social media on mental health (particularly in the context of eating disorders.)
For me, social media has had both its benefits and its drawbacks throughout my recovery. When I was diagnosed with Anorexia, I used Instagram to connect with other people who had the same diagnosis. Although at the time I thought that there was nothing wrong with that, I realise now how it affected me, negatively. When all you see on your Instagram feed is images of food and emaciated looking bodies, that becomes normalised. Starving yourself is far from ‘normal.’ It held me back because I would look at the images and think; ‘I’m not Anorexic. I don’t look like these people.’ Even though I was unaware of it at the time, I think that I used it as a sort of ‘competition.’ I wanted to eat less than that. I wanted to be skinnier than that. I wouldn’t allow myself to recover because I didn’t think I was ill enough.
I would spend my days scrolling through page after page of food- food which I wouldn’t allow myself to eat. A lot of people call this ‘food porn.’ Call it what you want, it wasn’t healthy. It fed into my obsession with food, and before I knew it, it’s all I would think about 24/7.
Thankfully Instagram are doing a lot to remove the triggering sort of content that I mentioned, but unfortunately it has come a bit too late. Several young people have commited suicide recently due to the content that can be so easily viewed on Instagram. Hearing things like that really shows how damaging the internet can be.
It wasn’t until I was admitted to a specialist eating disorders hospital that I realised how much social media was negatively impacting me. I decided to delete all the accounts that were triggering- accounts that claimed to be in ‘recovery’ but were in fact promoting pro-ana content. Instead I decided to follow accounts that made me feel good- accounts that might have said ‘in recovery’ or ‘recovered’ in their bio, but who were in real recovery.
I was, and still am, able to differentiate between people who are in ‘fake’ recovery and people who are genuinley committed to getting better, because the latter tend to post about their life as opposed to solely posting pictures of their bodies (which is used to body-check) and pictures of their low energy food. By freeing myself of the accounts that made me feel bad, I was able to see that there is life outside of anorexia.
It isn’t all about Instagram though, the internet alone can be so destructive. All it takes is one google search of literally anything and you will be given page after page of advise. Don’t get me wrong, in some cases the advise will be good, but in many cases, pro-ana forums are easily stumbled upon by vulnerable people who fall victim to their harmful content. I’m not going to go into the whole ‘my pro ana’ forum much, because it is extremely triggering, and I don’t want to be giving that sort of thing my time of day, but just to put it into perspective, when I say you can search anything and be provided with advise I do mean ANYTHING. They tell you how to make yourself sick, how to manipulate your weight- its disgusting. It should be banned but unfortunately it seems to have fallen through the net, and that just doesn’t sit right with me.
So, I hope this post has made you see social media and the internet in a different light. It isn’t that great. Things need to change. As much as I would love to see the pro-ana forums removed and the triggering content from Instagram banned, unfortunately Instagram would argue that content is subjective (what one person views as triggering won’t be triggering for a different person.) To give you an example of this; I used to find viewing fitness accounts triggering, but obviously Instagram would not ban all fitness accounts because of one persons opinion. So, whilst you might be unable to change that, you are able to change what you see. If you are triggered by an account, unfollow it. Take steps to get you closer to your ultimate goal- recovery.
Take care of yourselves. Prioritise the most important in your life- YOU!