Social Media & Adolescent Body Image - A Toxic Relationship

Social Media & Adolescent Body Image - A Toxic Relationship

Iman Kashif - 11 July 2021

As the world continues to thrive into what is now known as the ‘digital era’, certain resulting concepts have missed the mark. The growing effects of social media on body image, specifically adolescent body image, are impossible to ignore. Although studies are currently developing on this new phenomenon, the current data collected shows clear evidence of the degree of harm that photo apps like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat can have on the average teen.

Scrolling Away

As posting pictures and scrolling through others’ photos has become the norm, so has an increased negative thought process about personal body image. A study done by the Florida House Experience which included 1,000 men and women found that 65% of men and 87% of women admit to comparing their bodies to those they see on social as well as other media. Within that comparison range, 37% of men and 50% of women admit to comparing themselves negatively to what they see on social media. By understanding and analyzing these statistics, it is clear that while flawless pictures and aesthetically edited photos look pleasing from a distance on apps like Instagram, these essentially ‘false realities’ have a more substantial negative impact that outweighs any positive one.

To reinstate the prevalence of adolescents in the social media circle, the following statistics can be examined: in Australia in 2014, 72% of the population used social media, out of which the majority was young people. In the USA, 75% of teens admit to having at least one up-and-running social media account in 2018. In 2021, nine out of every ten Canadians from the ages of 15-34 utilize social media, the highest statistic of all age groups in Canada. This shows that the majority of online presence is governed by adolescents, thus resulting in youth bearing the brunt of a hefty amount of online false reality.

An Altered Image

The comparison above is part of a collection titled Selfie Harm by British photographer; Rankin. The collection features various alterations (done by teens themselves) of before and after images, and highlights the deceit contained within edited/altered photos by big-end influencers and the effect they have on adolescents. Photoshopped pictures, heavy editing, face-tuned photos, and self-enhancing filters are also proven to display a “perfect standard” to young adolescents, which are often impossible to achieve without major alterations to one’s existing physique. Teens also lack the ability to readily recognize when images of bodies or faces are edited due to the seamlessness of modern apps. Due to the rapid increase of this false imagery in modern times, young people feel extreme pressure to look ‘flawless’ or ‘fit the beauty standard’ when seeing idols and influencers on the web. The result is a major disconnect between self-appreciation and body image, and an unhealthy obsession with obtaining perfection.


Unhealthy comparisons to edited photos, an upheaved struggle to fit the societal beauty standard, and negative thoughts surrounding body image are only the beginning of the unjust impact of social media on today’s youth. As the web increasingly becomes a host to a growing communal false reality, adolescents quickly fall into a trap of unrealistic expectations seen on social media. The obsession with looking ‘picture-perfect’ has only spread in recent years and has ultimately caused teens the price of self-appreciation

It is important for everyone, especially young adolescents to keep in mind that not everything online is real and true. Comparing oneself to professionally edited photos, photoshopped pictures, and flawless face-tuned skin will only provide further damage to one’s mental health and body image. Stay aware of the tricky nature of many social media apps that exist today and be wary of the depleting effects that false online realities can have on the mind and body.


Aacap. (n.d.). Retrieved from media plays a big, media site at least daily

Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2021, March 24). This study uses the 2018 Canadian Internet Use Survey to examine reports of the negative effects individuals aged 15 to 64 experience because of their use of social networking websites or apps. Social media refers to digital platforms that allow users to create and share content (e.g., text-based posts, photos and videos) and online profiles, and to interact with other users. In 2018, social media was regularly used by about 9 in 10 Canadians aged 15 to 34, 8 in 10 of those aged 35 to 49, and 6 in 10 of those aged 50 to 64. Retrieved from

Issue 46: Social Media and Body Image. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Link Between Social Media & Body Image. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Photo-Editing Apps and Their Potential Harms for Teens. (n.d.). Retrieved from

The complicated truth about social media and body image. (n.d.). Retrieved from