CW: Body Image, ED.
Social media can be great. I’m sure we’ve all spent countless hours scrolling through Instagram, TikTok and Twitter escaping the mind numbing boredom of lockdown. We’ve seen the funny TikToks and Reels, the cats not quite reaching their jump, the anecdotes from parents spending lockdown with their ‘terrible twos’. But, as I’m sure many know, it’s not all fluffy animals, laughs and relatable content.
I’ve spent many a lockdown hour on TikTok, my For You page has been finessed so perfectly every video is relatable. Every one sent to one of my poor friends no doubt sick of the endless stream of videos I subject them to. But amongst them, courtesy of the self-deprecating content I do sometimes enjoy, my TikTok FYP can go that step too far.
Who knew there were so many parts of your body to be insecure about? Until TikTok, I did not realise you could get surgery to make your forehead smaller (15-year-old majorly self-conscious about her five-head me would have been all over that), or that you could have your double chin dissolved with a simple (if not slightly risky) injection. Apparently, I now need to be self-conscious about my side profile and my hip dips. Things I’d never even noticed in myself before, and trust me the insecurities already run deep, I’m now painfully aware and insecure of.
This is all before we even start thinking about the real issue of TikTok. The eating disorder pages, the mental health jokes that sometimes, when there are just that one too many, start to hit that little bit too close to home. Suddenly TikTok starts to feel like Tumblr in 2012 and triggering posts make up too many of the videos that appear. Whilst recovery communities can certainly be great, if it’s triggering to you, it can seem hard to escape that side of TikTok even when you want to. Even when you click the ‘I don’t want to see this’ button.
Things don’t improve when you switch over to Instagram. Despite doing a major purge of my Instagram feed to remove content that makes me feel insecure, it’s still there. I’m insecure at my running pace, courtesy of Strava screenshots, the fact my never-had-a-baby-tummy is bigger than the 6-week postpartum tummy of a girl I went to school with.
The toxic nature of some of these apps means that even if it’s not body image issues, the negative side effects can come from the relentless posts about how much of a fun time so-and-so is having with their mates. Whilst this is certainly less due to lockdown, we’ve had those posts in the intermittent lockdown periods, the pre-Covid period and no doubt the competition to see who can have the best post-lockdown summer come 21st June. The am I living my life enough? Am I socialising enough? Do my friends actually like me? Questions that all can have a negative impact too.
But we have to remember that people really only post the highlights of their lives. Nobody is going to share on their public Instagram the photos that they hated, the times they spent crying or the arguments they had in what looks like a perfect day otherwise. Maybe that’s the real negative side, that so much of it is fake.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ll continue to use the apps. I still enjoy them. But I definitely think knowing when to get off is key and purging your FYP and who you follow to reduce that negativity as much as possible is important.