Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have been notorious in the past for creating a false sense of reality. Social media is known for only promoting the “highlight reel” or the positive aspects of a person’s life. Because these platforms do not depict the everyday struggle that goes on behind the scenes, people have unfairly used social media as the gold standard of comparison. This greatly influences how users view themselves in contrast to those around them. To no one’s surprise, these comparisons have led many to fall victim to insecurities relating to their appearance.
Is TikTok the New Instagram?
It is no surprise that with over 800 million registered users, TikTok has quickly become one of the most widely used social media platforms to date. The video-based app gives way for users to share more indiscriminate details of their everyday life.
TikTok has revolutionized the way that social media users share and express their creative passions. No more are the days of meticulously editing a photo or perfectly curating a post to appease your followers.
Is this the long-awaited revolution we have been so desperately yearning for? An era of authenticity and transparency?
Well, not quite.
So what does this mean for social media as a whole, you may ask? Well, unfortunately, while TikTok seems like the holy grail we have been waiting for, the apple does not fall from the tree.
The Problems with this “New App”
TikTok has undoubtedly presented a whole host of problems concerning the mental health of its users. Like other social media platforms, TikTok has incorporated an infinite scroll feature that allows users to view endless amounts of content. The algorithm creates a unique experience tailored to each user. Upon asking some of my close friends about their TikTok intake, there was one common link amongst them all. To put it simply, TIME was the greatest benefactor connecting each experience. Each person I talked to expressed that they spend a great deal of time on the platform. Some even disclosed that their TikTok addiction was getting so out of control that they had to set up an automated time limit so that way they would know when to take a break from the app.
TikTok’s infinite scroll, along with its unique algorithm, has expelled a Pandora’s Box filled with problems. However, the main issue I want to explore further deals with TikTok’s promotion of unrealistic body standards.
Upon scrolling through TikTok’s content, it is very apparent to me that many of the viral videos tend to capitalize on the user’s physical appearance. Many of the videos depict relatively young and attractive people. This, in turn, creates a false narrative surrounding beauty standards and what is seen as “attractive.” There is now a specific precedent established to be successful on this platform, and beauty is at the forefront.
Many dangerous trends on TikTok have emerged due to people’s insecurities promoted by the app in regards to their physical appearance.
For instance, several viral trends have circulated the app in which users actively express disdain for their physical appearance. Many of these videos and trends glamorize eating disorders and restrictive eating habits. Diet fads discussing “how to lose weight quickly” or “tips to get your dream body” continue to grow quite popular.
Young creators have also used the platform to compare their appearance directly to their peers. In some clips, users show themselves comparing their bodies to other creators. Some even “duet” themselves throwing their food away in response to these videos.
Why We Need to Focus on the Positive
This type of attention consistently pushed by the platform can negatively impact how people perceive themselves. However, some creators use this as an opportunity to spread body positivity and self-love. To date, there are over 772 million views on videos with the hashtag #bodypostive. Not only that, but some have also used their platform to spread awareness of mental health issues like eating disorders and body dysmorphia.
Personally, as someone who previously struggled with body dysmorphia, many videos concerning physical appearance can dredge up negative feelings. However, discussing these feelings with a trusted individual or seeking professional guidance has helped me in the past. There is no shame in asking for help from those around you. Limiting your exposure or taking much-needed breaks from apps like TikTok may be beneficial.
As social media continues to flourish, the battle to end body shaming may feel like a tireless feat. Some days are better than others. Nonetheless, recognizing and acknowledging these insecurities can aid in the positive acclamation of one’s self. While there is no “end all be all” to eliminating these issues ingrained and publicized by platforms like TikTok, there are some proactive steps we can take towards cultivating body positivity.