I remember back in 2016 when I was a lot more addicted to my phone than I am now. It was like a nervous tick, I felt awkward if I didn’t have my phone in my hand...I felt awkward if I wasn’t pretending to scroll through my Instagram feed, even though I’d already seen what was on my feed just 5 minutes ago.
I remember waking up and having my phone be the first thing I reached for. I would reach for it before drinking a sip of water to rehydrate my body or take a
moment of gratitude for another day of life. I didn’t know it then, but that was the start of the negative effects of social media on beauty standards–on my beauty standards, on my happiness.
Social media was originally a tool to help connect us with amazing individuals around the world, but social media quite quickly became a place of no boundaries, toxicity, comparison, flexes, and unhappiness.
I felt myself slipping away. I felt myself pulling away from my parents, my sister, my relationships. Everything. All that I did, I did “for the Gram”–I am cringing so hard as I type this right now. My obsession with social media was taking over my life.
I could scroll for hours, looking at my friends living their best lives after graduation, and wondering why I wasn’t doing that. Why was I here, in Langley,
B.C., in my parents home, in my bedroom under these black and white quilt covers, going to school part-time and working at this small shoe store at Willowbrook Mall, instead of going to lakes, partying, traveling, making new friends, and eating amazing food all the time? Why wasn’t I as beautiful, as slim, as stunning, and as perfect as Ashley, Rebecca, Diana? Why were my breasts smaller, my ass tiny, my eyelashes flat, and my hair a voluminous mess? Why couldn’t I be perfect, and beautiful and stunning and outgoing like them?
That was the beginning of my unhappiness.
Social media likes give you a high.
It’s kind of fucked up that the simple double-tap on a photo can create so much happiness in your brain. I’d post a “fire” photo of myself and watch the likes roll in. Getting a dopamine high every time I opened the app and had 30 more.
These are the negative effects of social media on beauty standards.
I was hooked and I wanted more. So, I’d upload a new photo, one that was more wholesome and that I loved very much...and for some reason...that one wouldn’t acquire as many likes...instead of thinking it was the algorithm...or the time and day that I posted...I second-guessed my beauty. I second-guessed my cuteness and fabulousness. I’d delete the photo.
This was one of the negative effects of social media on beauty standards. I try to explain this to older generations and they try to understand it...but they just don’t. Growing up during a time where social media was becoming popular and apps like Instagram and Snapchat and Ask FM were out...well, it wasn’t an easy time to be a pre-teen or a teen. Parents say “Well why does it matter? Who
cares how many likes you get?” But that’s the thing, at that very moment you do. You do SO MUCH because you’re growing up and not realizing that you’re growing up an addict to the feeling the mini-computer in your pocket lets you have.
Social media is a drug, it’s a drug I can’t get away from. It’s a drug I’ve had to learn to control my intake of or else I lose myself.
I’ve grown mentally and emotionally since that summer back in 2016, but sometimes I will feel those old feelings creep back up...I’ll feel myself begin to compare myself, and that’s when I know I’ve allowed myself to indulge too much.
That summer–it took a lot but, I took a break off social media. I was off of it for
three months, and it was seriously one of the best things I had ever done and have ever done. I felt happy, I rekindled relationships and apologized for neglecting others, I felt free.
Eventually, I had to go back on. I couldn’t hide from it any longer because the career path I was on required me to be on it...so back I went, a little more prepared than before, knowing now that I had to control my intake in order to maintain my mental health.
I’d like to tell you that I no longer feel the negative effects of social media on beauty standards...but that would be a lie. Five years later, and I still struggle from time to time...but something is different. There’s an inner alarm or alert system that lets me know when I’ve had too much… it wasn’t there before and I just recently began feeling it. It’s just like the queue that tells you when you’re full or have had too much sugar, like when your body starts to ache from sitting for too long and you know you need to get up and move.
I am not sure exactly how it got there. Perhaps it was in training this entire time, perhaps it’s simply my subconscious, or maybe I am just more aware of it now. However it got there, I am happy it did. Sometimes I come home, and after a day of working on social media, the last thing I want to do is go on my phone. It
feels amazing to be able to put the phone down and have a conversation with my SO, to not NEED my phone to poop, to not need it when my partner gets up to use the bathroom at a restaurant, or not need it while waiting in line at the doctor’s office.
But how I see myself? I wish the way I saw myself had changed more over the past five years. There are still days when I scroll and begin to compare myself to the other amazing women I follow on social media. They’re successful, motivated, stunning, smart, and funny. I get down on myself because I feel I am not those things, I feel myself slowly beginning to get sad, and before I know it I am lying in bed, sitting in my shit for far too long. There I am, sitting in my feelings, in comparison, in my idea of what the perfect woman is and how far I am from it.
This happened to me just yesterday. I had told myself at the start of my day that I was going to come home from work and take a photo of myself for social
media. So I came home, set up my mini light stand and my camera, set the timer, and started selfie-ing away. I was horrified at the photos I took. I whispered to myself “Holy shit, I am so fucking ugly.”
I fixated on the way my lip curled ugly when I smiled, on how my nose tilts to the right when I express happiness with my face, and how one eye got smaller than the other when I smiled with my eyes. I saw my crooked tooth, I saw my frizzy hair, I saw the non-existent symmetry of my face. The entire time I was comparing myself to the people that I see on social media that, to me, exude the kind of perfection I wish I had.
I had this feeling of immense hate towards myself fill my body. Immediately I picked up my phone and texted my closest friends the exact feelings I was feeling. I didn’t hold back, not for a second–they don’t mind, that’s why we’re best friends. I also want to preface this by saying that no, I wasn’t fishing for compliments, I needed to get my feelings out with the people I trust the most–they replied, they questioned my feelings, they understood them, they related,
and they gave me feedback on how to handle them.
I took a second, I thought to myself “Veronica, there are actual reasons to be upset. Not that this isn’t an ‘actual’ reason. But your vanity is not the end of the world.” I got up stared at myself in the mirror and decided that I would no longer sit in my shit for the remainder of my day. I mean, why ruin a perfectly good day with my insecurities?
I realize that my actions were just a temporary band-aid. I did feel a lot better when I got up and took charge and told my brain that no, I wasn’t going to feel sad over the beauty standards that have been shaped, contorted, and fed to me by social media. I am aware that I have to face these feelings and thoughts head-on, but yesterday wasn’t that day. The most interesting part was that when I looked at those photos again today...I didn’t see what I saw yesterday...
I think that growing up with social media adds a whole layer of insecurities that
our parents and grandparents didn’t have. I was talking with my boyfriend’s parents not too long ago and they were telling me about their rowdy teens and early 20’s when they used to go to a different bar every night and party and drink and smoke. To me, that seems wild, and honestly not anything near what I consider fun...I mean, who wants to be hungover all the time, and smoking?–yucky! But that was how they lived their adolescence just 20-30 years ago, smoke-filled bars, bar fights and all.
Now, growing up entails comparison and imperfection, attempting to be something on social media that you really aren’t in person. Now, growing up means you are constantly consuming new information, and in reality...our adult brains are nowhere near capable of processing all the information we see in one day...let-alone a growing adolescent mind!
Growing up nowadays means growing up with an increased likelihood of poor mental health. Why? Because technology and humans are advancing at a pace that our human minds have not evolved completely and entirely to live in just yet. Our fears manifest differently...what was once meant to keep us alive, now keeps us from living. Socialization is something we were bred to need, and in an
era where connecting with each other is easier than ever before...we’re more disconnected from each other than ever. Instead of learning compassion, understanding, and self-awareness, we are embracing vanity, comparison, narcissism, and an impossible idea of perfection. Instead of branching out and learning new things, every time you log onto your social media it’s been perfectly curated to show you exactly what you want to see and what you’re comfortable seeing.
Growing up now is harder than ever before...and honestly, my heart goes out to our children. I do believe though, with the information we have now, and the more people talk about the negative impacts of social media, the more prepared we’ll be to overcome it and raise our children to be better.
So yeah, the negative effect of social media on beauty standards are definitely there, and they're definitely being felt by our youth, but it's not just insecurities, it's also a breeding ground for stress and hate as well.
I don’t mean to sound overdramatic about social media if to you it isn’t a problem...but this is how I feel about it, and I know that I am not alone–I’ve had these conversations before. Social media is the perfect birth-site for negative feelings, and negative self-image, however, I believe change is coming.
I see influencers calling people out who are upholding and encouraging impossible beauty standards,
I see more people being themselves and loving who they are and sharing their journey with others so they can love themselves too.
I am not sure if that’s because my social media knows that I am on this self-love journey and is curating my feed to see more of that...or if it’s because I unfollowed the people that made me feel bad about myself and those that weren’t adding anything to my life, but I am seeing a lot more love on social media nowadays.
I still believe we need to ration how much time we spend on social media because too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
But I want you to know something, no matter how you feel the negative effects of social media on beauty standards, affecting you...you really are perfect just the way you are. Physically, emotionally, mentally.
You know what’s beautiful? Someone who loves themselves for all that they are. They exude confidence, joy, and happiness unlike no other. They walk into a room and everyone stares because everyone is low-key wishing they loved themselves THAT much.
Work towards it, babe.
Veronica Beltran - Is a former News Anchor and Radio Personality, she is a Content Creator and Vegan Life Style Enthusiast.
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