A recent study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that after teens and young adults cut down their use of social media by 50% for a few weeks, they witnessed a drastic improvement in body image.
The teens and young adults specifically felt better about their weight, as well as their overall appearance, as compared to peers who did not reduce social media use.
“Adolescence is a vulnerable period for the development of body image issues, eating disorders, and mental illness. Youth are spending, on average, between six to eight hours per day on screens, much of it on social media,” explained Gary Goldfield, the study’s lead author.
“Social media can expose users to hundreds or even thousands of images and photos every day, including those of celebrities and fashion or fitness models, which we know leads to an internalization of beauty ideals that are unattainable for almost everyone, resulting in greater dissatisfaction with body weight and shape.”
But, according to Goldfield, most of the psychological research surrounding social media, mental health, and body image is correlational.
In other words, it is unclear whether people struggling with mental health and body image issues are spending more time on social platforms; or if the social media use itself is leading to greater mental health and body image impacts.
That’s why Goldfield and his colleagues first conducted a past pilot study with 38 participants. Each participant was an undergraduate student suffering from elevated levels of depression and/or anxiety.
Some of the students were asked to cut down their social media use to a maximum of 60 minutes each day; meanwhile, other students were able to use social media for any amount of time.
The researchers ultimately found that participants who practiced restricted social media use had an improved regard for their overall appearance after just three weeks. Although, this was not the same for body weight perspectives.