Does social media promote Eating Disorders? Or can it actually be a useful tool to help in recovery? This is a really important topic especially during the pandemic as people are spending more and more time online and on social media.

Research shows that there is a correlation between time spent on social media and increased risk for Eating Disorders, however there is no direct causation. Social media has its pros and cons in terms of Eating Disorder support, and it is important to be aware and informed of both in order to gain a balanced perspective and make decisions that are best for your own recovery.

On the one hand, social media can serve to promote wellness, health and inspiration for individuals with Eating Disorders who are seeking recovery. On the other hand, it can also lead to an obsession with healthy eating as young women and men post about their “clean”, impractical diets. Social media is also linked to negative body image, as people compare themselves to unrealistic, often photoshopped bodies and feel badly that they can’t live up to an impossible standard.

Those who use social media regularly tend to form strong connections to influencers, even though they really don’t know the individual. These connections are actually stronger than what a person might feel towards models or athletes on TV. Social media makes it seem like you are privy to a person’s personal life which creates a strong bond and connection. So, when an influencer looks fit and toned, it can cause people to focus increasingly on their own appearance and their negative feelings towards it.

With all of the potential negative aspects, it seems easy to suggest taking a break from social media. However, it is important to understand that this can be extremely difficult for some people, especially during a pandemic when social media might be a person’s main source of social interaction.

When used effectively, social media can be a really positive source of support and healing for individuals combatting Eating Disorders. For example, it can be a great way to share resources, messages, and images that are healing or affirming. Many social media apps have begun to adopt a greater emphasis on true health, nutrition and wellness, promoting evidence-based nutrition and health messaging and encouraging positive viewer engagement, which counters some of the misinformation. There has also been a positive shift towards promoting diverse body types, shapes, sizes and colours. Social media groups can provide a social support system for people who may need that connection to others who they feel understands what they are going through.

Here are some tips to make your social media a recovery-based space:

  • Unfollow accounts that make you feel badly about yourself.
  • Intentionally search for accounts that promote body positivity and body diversity.
  • Follow positive social media accounts that spread joy, acceptance, and who choose to lift others.
  • Take small social media breaks from time to time.
  • Give non-appearance related compliments. For example, instead of commenting on how good your friend looks in their most recent Instagram photo, comment on how artistic the photo looks.
  • Remember, it’s YOUR feed. You have the control to cultivate it to make it positive and supportive to your healing journey instead of negative and triggering.

With the increased use of social media during this pandemic, it is crucial to be mindful of whether using it is helpful for you and your mental health. All in all, social media can be a negative influence for those with Eating Disorders, but it is possible to cultivate your feed into a more positive and supportive space for your healing journey.

Do you find social media triggering for your Eating Disorder? How can you curate your own feed to make sure it is a recovery focused space?