Over and out
Breaking the social media habit
Q How do you feel social media is impacting self-esteem and body image? A I’ve worked with people with eating disorders and noticed that it can be a big problem with people who are heavy social media users, especially Instagram. Often people wind up trying to be something that they’re not and follow a lot of the guidelines that other people are putting out about the ways to eat and the way to exercise. That’s probably one big thing that’s causing a lot of stress for the younger age group; it’s sort of kicking in around age 14 as that’s where social media addiction comes in as well. These kids are on their
phones all the time, following certain people and what they’ve got going on in their lives.
I think one other thing with heavy social media users is they can often be quite isolated in real life. Being on social media makes them feel connected to different friend groups even though they’re actually very isolated. The isolation can then lead to depression and also social anxiety, so that when you are in social situations you’re not confident because you’re used to just looking at other people’s lives online. One thing I also experience in the [naturopathic] clinic is people trying to mimic another person from social media. And I think that’s where getting off social media or creating boundaries with it is really important. It allows people to connect to their own life and not just be a follower of someone else’s. Q How do you think yoga, meditation and mindfulness can combat this? A Yoga and meditation can really allow people to connect to their own self rather than connecting outwards and comparing themselves to others. Meditation in particular [works], because you’re going in and closing your eyes and having to confront things. It pulls you away – even if it is only for half an hour – from the phone and gives you a break. And for some people that’s actually really hard. I sometimes see people popping out [of class] to look at their phone to see what’s going on. It’s that fear of missing out – that somebody might post and they’ll miss it because they’re in yoga. That’s where I usually give guidelines around not using Instagram and Facebook before bed and first thing in the morning and trying to break some of those addictive habits. There are really good meditations to help with addiction and rebalancing the brain, because social media really can become an addiction. If someone’s already an addictive personality, then that makes it even worse, and that’s where you’ll start to see a major problem with overusing Instagram and Facebook and when it starts to affect body image. Q You mentioned that there are some really good meditation exercises. Are there any you’d recommend? A With any sort of yoga, it’s finding something you like to do in whatever style that is. I personally like to use kundalini yoga and meditations because it’s a powerful practice to rebalance the mind, and that’s where you need to make the most changes. With a class like a vinyasa or yoga that’s in a gym, you won’t get that same effect because you’re looking around the room. You also need some focus points, rather than just sitting and breathing; that’s generally not enough. You need, for example, some internal affirmations or mantras. Q Do you have any other tips outside of yoga and meditation for cultivating a better self-esteem? A Really looking at what you’re eating and not making it a ‘diet’ is quite important. Many women jump from one diet to the next, whatever’s popular – from raw food eating to high-protein/ low-carbohydrate. I think the key thing is just to get more nutrients and eat wholefoods and then you won’t get so anxious and stressed about what you’re eating. Then, as I’ve said, creating limits around using social media. One of the most common things, especially in teenagers and those in their 20s, is looking at Facebook or Instagram in the morning and last thing at night, so one good approach is just to limit your use – only go on there once in the morning and once in the mid-afternoon. Finally, keeping a healthy balance of social connection in the outside world, not just online, and remembering that most of the time, people are only posting the best parts of their life. Talking to your own family and friends can also be really helpful in building body image.
‘Social media makes them feel connected even though they’re very, very isolated’