Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Eating Disorder Service

Information for young people

Social media

As a young person, social media is often the centre of connecting with other people and feeling up to date with what is happening in the world. However social media can have a confusing and dangerous side, resulting in sometimes not knowing what is real or safe online, especially with regards to eating disorders.

Here we have put together some things to consider whilst using social media in relation to eating disorders, and some advice for when it can be difficult to know what’s what online.

Research shows spending lots of time online looking at pictures of celebrity idols, tweeting the latest fad diet or pinning new workout routines can be detrimental to a young person’s self-esteem. These may seem like health promoting behaviours at first, but when looked at more closely they can lead to unrealistic expectations and mental health problems including eating disorders.

Many photos shown on social media are heavily edited through various filters and make up can be applied to areas of the body to provide shadowing and muscle tone. Photos can be edited to make people look thinner than they are. This means that the images being shown are not realistic representations of human bodies, but instead edited, unachievable targets for unhealthy body changes. Photos uploaded online are often a “highlight reel” of that person’s life, creating unrealistic perceptions of how a person is living their life.

Social media has many benefits when used correctly! You can share photos with your friends and family, easy and instant communication through messaging apps, real time news updates and many more.

Top tips for using social media

Limit the time you spend on social media and use it wisely. You can download app that monitor how much you are using social media as a reminder of when to cut down.

If you are following someone that makes you feel unhappy about yourself, unfollow them!

Remember that people on social media are showing you a “highlight reel” of their life. Everyone has their own struggles but will not often post this online. Don’t compare your life to those you see online as they are only showing you a small portion of their life.

All social media sites allow the user to customise their privacy settings. As a user, you can choose whether content you put online can be seen by everyone, or people who you are already connected to only. However it is important to remember that if friends can see it, content is still vulnerable to be shared to more than your own social network.

Many people would have heard of “web hackers”; people who manage to access your account and alter information or put information online that you might not be aware of. This can be dangerous, especially if personal information is held on your social media account. It is important to change your password regularly, limiting the likelihood of someone hacking your account.

The majority of social media platforms now have messaging features. This allows users to send messages to each other privately without being broadcast to the rest of the site. However, people can also message users without being friends or connected on that social media platform. Again, this can make you vulnerable, but all it requires is a moment of thinking; would I talk to someone I didn’t know on my own in the offline world? No? This also applies in the online world.

Last updated: 11 March, 2019