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Social Media, Pictures & Body Image

Social media. Some people love it, some despise it. One of the most difficult aspects of social media is the pressure or influence it can have on individual’s views of images of themselves. The pressures that have been heavily influenced by the possibility of judgement from others can influence the way people view themselves in pictures. In today’s blog, we are going to exam how internal and external expectations can influence people’s views of themselves. We are also going to discuss how these expectations connected with how people view social media can largely impact how much of an emotional impact someone can have with the views of their bodies.

Social media. Some people love it, some despise it. One of the most difficult aspects of social media is the pressure or influence it can have on individual’s views of images of themselves. The pressures that have been heavily influenced by the possibility of judgement from others can influence the way people view themselves in pictures. In today’s blog, we are going to exam how internal and external expectations can influence people’s views of themselves. We are also going to discuss how these expectations connected with how people view social media can largely impact how much of an emotional impact someone can have with the views of their bodies.



Social media can have several benefits such as: business promotion, social connection, or gathering information. As a body image therapist, I also see the negative effects of social media and how it can impact body image. First, it can influence a large amount of body comparison and can encourage body scrutiny. Secondly, it can start to cause a large amount of internalized pressure or external pressure for individuals to only post images of themselves that look a certain way. Thirdly, it can influence body disgust. It is important for individuals to know more about some of these influences as they can often present subtly, but overtime and can lead to development of aversion of pictures, or excessive fears of judgement or rejection when they do post.


First, let’s talk about body comparison. If individuals can make more money, gain popularity and receive acceptance and notoriety from social media. People start to develop internalized expectations for their own social media presence (even if they do not prioritize social media). There is an unspoken pressure for presenting images of themselves that show more glamorous images of themselves with the hope of more acceptance. Often this presents in the form of more likes, comments, or shares which can often communicate a sign of acceptance for someone. Even individuals who do not prioritize social media, still face the internalized pressures of not posting images of themselves to others that could possibly be scrutinized by others.


What do internalized pressures look like vs. external pressures when it comes to body image? Think of internalized pressures as a set of internalized rules someone has for their body image. For example: “I can’t get my picture taken without make up” would be an example of an internalized pressure. Maybe our society has influenced this internalized expectation/rule, but the rule is primarily internal. External pressures are largely from an outside perspective, for example: someone can feel neutral about their weight, but they notice a large number of compliments or more external validation when they lose weight. Hence, drawing a natural conclusion that people are paying a large amount of attention to their bodies and that they have more acceptance from others when they lose weight. Both of these expectations (internal and external) can be disordered- and can shape the views that people have of themselves and their bodies. This can largely present with social media because people notice when they are getting more validation, and this causes more scrutiny of their bodies and the images they post of themselves.


The final and most important aspect to consider

as we explore some of these points, is how someone views images of themselves. When people look at images of themselves and are habitually looking at pictures of themselves with disgust saying things such as: “I look so gross” or obsessing over different aspects of their bodies, they begin develop internalized disgust and judgement. This means that they cannot just look at an image of themselves without a large amount of scrutiny, fear or disgust. They often start to feel as if the image of themselves represents something about the way they look entirely, and how people perceive them.


All these factors are just some of the many influencers that can impact the emotional toll it can take on people and how they view images of themselves. There is a large amount of disgust we see as therapists with our clients in relation to images of themselves which impacts their likelihood of allowing themselves to share in memories and get their picture taken. People often see images of themselves in a more critical manner which can largely affect their body disgust. I meet with clients often and it is common for individuals to be more critical of the way they look in pictures and have more disgust with their bodies after seeing pictures of themselves. I have noticed that people are generally more critical of images of themselves, and I have seen this largely increase with the pressures of social media. Research, and personal experience with clients has largely pointed towards the impact that social media pressures could be correlated.


If these points describe you, I challenge you to start taking images of yourself and looking from a lens of compassion instead of criticism. Recognizing that images can be powerful, and finding ways to take pictures of yourself and speak of these images in a kind or encouraging manner rather than from a judgmental stance. Often Silk and Salt reports seeing multiple individuals who are anxious before getting their images taken, or worried about how they will look- then afterwards appreciating or being excited about their images. Do not wait to find outlets that feel safe or help you move towards compassionate views of yourself in regards to images. Also review your social media, make sure you follow people (or people follow you) that you find to be kind and non-judgmental so that some of your external pressures are lessoned. Use social media as an outlet to support your body image, and be careful of the kinds of social media you surround yourself with as it can often influence your body image. Do not wait! Use now to start healing your fears surrounding pictures, allow yourself to get your picture taken. Allow yourself to post the pictures and stop your inner critic when you notice self-critical thoughts when looking at images. Remember, if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, you should not be saying it about yourself!




This blog is not meant as therapeutic advice, rather to provide education. If you or a loved one is struggling with disordered eating, or body image issues know that there are many educated qualified mental health therapists and dieticians who are well-versed in these complicated issues. Please seek therapeutic & nutritional support if disordered eating or body image concerns are impacting your life.



Deanna Smith, LCSW






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