ARTE, a French and German broadcast service, recently published a documentary about the harmful nature of social media and influencers on the development of eating disorders. Les Ados Devant La Peur De Grossir (English: Adolescents Facing The Fear Of Weight Gain) discusses the growth of eating disorders in European culture due to the rise of pressure propelled by social media.
In the technological world, a body is a form of a social status. For young pre-teens and teenagers – girls, especially – the desire to “fit in” and be accepted by one’s peers is enormous. Furthermore, smartphones are being used by increasingly younger adolescents. At this young age, children are incredibly impressionable. Subsequently, their interaction with social media through these devices leaves strong impressions on their self-perception.
The rise of influencers has also brought about some destructive consequences. ARTE attempts to demonstrate how the unrealistic expectations set by influencers can lead young girls to develop eating disorders. The documentary also highlights how this phenomenon is not strictly an American issue: young girls and women across the globe face great pressure to adhere to unrealistic body standards.
In France, the second greatest cause of mortality in young people is eating disorders. In Germany, 33% of adolescents from the ages of 14 to 16 already show signs of developing or having developed an eating disorder. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
For ARTE, the increased use of technology by young people poses a risk to physical and mental health.
The world of influencers and followers sends a mixed message. As a result, it’s necessary to understand that what you see is not always honest and accurate.
Charlotte, a famous German influencer, explains to ARTE how she made her image a priority for her Instagram account. However, her obsessive behavior surrounding her body image ultimately hurt her. Charlotte developed anorexia as a result of the pressure she felt to achieve the “ideal” look for her followers. Like many social media users, Charlotte tells ARTE how comments and likes for one’s posts temporarily boost self-esteem.
But it’s a vicious cycle. Once you enter the social media world, you start to compare yourself to others. Whether you do this consciously or subconsciously, it’s a dangerous habit to get into.
Charlotte eventually came forward to her many followers and discussed her struggle with anorexia. For many, it’s a reminder that what you see on social media is meticulously thought out. In fact, the two influencers that ARTE interviewed – Charlotte and Mercedes – made sure to point out that they only post the most positive parts of their lives. Naturally, these users are attempting to create an ideal image of themselves for the rest of the world.
“You only show certain moments of your life and you choose which moments to show. You give the followers what they want,” – Mercedes
That’s the beauty and the beast of social media.
For 23-year-old Amélie, the pressure to be thin and “perfect” has transformed into an eleven-year battle with anorexia. Amélie is currently at a treatment center in Dijon, France.
She starves herself, forces herself to throw up, and engages in behavior designed to burn the maximum amount of calories possible.
During a particular scene in the documentary, ARTE films Amélie eating lunch. She fiddles with a leaf of lettuce for about thirty seconds before slowly chewing it. It is evident that she continues to struggle with mealtime. For many girls with an eating disorder, this is an everyday battle.
In a private interview, Amélie discusses the role that social media played in the development of her anorexia. Social media appears to align being thin with success. This is a completely illogical and untrue concept.
Amélie is concerned about the way that body image is portrayed on the Internet. Therefore, she has chosen to write a book about the potential dangers of consistently using social media.
However, rather than receiving encouraging feedback about her idea, Amélie is being asked questions about how to become anorexic. It appears that the underground organizations and websites designed to promote eating disorders continue to rear their ugly heads.
For Flavia, a 14-year-old German girl in Bavaria, it was the fitness bloggers that attracted her attention. Her eating disorder developed at age 11.
“I thought I was too fat so I decided to lose weight. When I got thinner, other girls started to notice me and I became popular,” – Flavia, ARTE.
Flavia’s case was so extreme that upon entering her treatment facility, she was force-fed. At the beginning of treatment, Flavia refused to eat or drink anything. She even experienced hallucinations and feared gaining weight.
In an interview alongside her therapist, Flavia explains to ARTE that adolescents seek acceptance in society.
Social media provides a template of how to achieve acceptance and popularity. However, this template is incorrect and awfully skewed.
There is a growing number of young girls with eating disorders stemming from Internet exposure. For those recovering or in treatment, their relationship with social media has to be altered.
In Flavia’s case, she has to reevaluate how she interacts with the Internet. She has to be more conscious of how she reacts and responds to posts. Certain images and comments can be triggering. The fitness bloggers that post endless photos of their workout and diet regimen are a source of tension for Flavia.
More than anything, ARTE’s documentary and the girls who participated prove that social media has extremely negative side effects. Young adolescents – women, especially – need to be reminded that they don’t need to change in order to be accepted.
Beauty does not come in one shape, size, or form. The ability that we have to be unique and different is an amazing thing. Rather than dictating what is beautiful or “normal,” social media and influencers should encourage diversity, inclusion, and beauty in all its endless forms!
Stop questioning whether you are good enough or beautiful enough, because you are!
Ladies, stop wasting time focusing on the thigh gap and start focusing on the wage gap!