By Lauren Rearick
Chances are good that your social media feeds right now are filled with memes, your friends’ selfies, adorable animals, and everything you love. However, keeping close tabs on your best friend’s seemingly picture-perfect spring break or following along with your fave celeb’s photoshoot adventures isn’t always as harmless as you may think. It may feel like you’re supposed to keep up with every post, but all that scrolling can be detrimental to your self-confidence and your mental health.
In a 2016 study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the use of social media apps was directly linked to an increase in negative body image. One of the study’s authors, Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., explained that constant exposure to images, especially those on social media that don’t always present an accurate portrayal of the poster’s body or life, can possibly encourage negative thoughts on body image. Given that 30 million Americans will deal with an eating disorder at some point in their life, the often impossible body image standard set by filtered photos or artfully posed selfies could negatively influence how someone views their own body, even if that's not the intent of the poster.
Thankfully, a number of people are doing the crucial work to disrupt unattainable standards of beauty by simply posting themselves and the people they love as they are. By posting content that portrays a more honest depiction of their bodies, eating disorder recovery, and what it means to practice self-love, celebrities, bloggers, organizations, and everyday Instagram users are working to shift the narrative on body image. (For its part, Instagram is working towards filtering out content that promotes eating disorders on its platform.). If your Instagram feed is in need of a refresher or you’re looking for some digital encouragement, start by hitting the follow button on these accounts.
“Follow people who are authentic, love themselves, and are funny and joyful. Nicole Byer and Lizzo are incredible, powerful celebrities who love their bodies, and encourage you to love yours.” — Amanda, 25, New York
“I revamped my Instagram to follow only people who post about inclusivity, body positivity, and are standing up and breaking the stigma every day. Search hashtags like #bodypositivity or #eatingdisorderrecovery. There are individuals posting content that is helpful, enlightening and positive to see. Surround yourself with content that lifts you up and makes you feel like you’re number one, because you are number one.” – Kaylie, 24, New York
“I found great people to follow who widen ideas about what it means to be beautiful: Virgie Tovar, Megan Jayne Crabbe at Body Posi Panda, Christy Harrison, and Jessamyn Stanley, who is a black fat yogi I love to follow. I also think everyone should look up the National Eating Disorder Awareness Organization if they are struggling, because it’s important to be able to reach out. They have volunteers and staff who are available to talk if you need.” — Julia, 25, New York
“Southern Smash, run by McCall Dempsey, has really become a powerful voice as an advocate for recovery, but also is a great example of how to use social media in a positive way. Another organization doing important work is Recovery Warriors, run by Jessica Flint. She has done a great deal to talk about the recovery experience, as well as incorporating what we're starting to understand in the research and treatment world.” — Dr. Norman Kim, the National Director of Program Development for Reasons Eating Disorder Center
“Look up the hashtag body positivity and look for people who embrace themselves and are constantly spreading positivity. Just Livin’ Baby (Amber Wagner) is my favorite account to follow.” — Portia, 26, New York City
“If you’re in recovery, instead of following fitness accounts, follow recovery accounts like #EdRecovery. I follow people who are going through recovery because they give me perspective on things I hadn’t even thought about and it helps keep me focused on my goal at hand.” — Charles, 34, New Jersey
“I enjoy watching StyleLike U, where they do the “What’s Underneath Project.” It’s all different types of people telling their story and there are some directed towards body positivity or journeys with bodies and eating disorders.” — Ella, 24, New York
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, head to neda.mtv.com to get help.