Social Media Sets High Beauty Standards, Harming Teenagers Along the Way

Social media leaves unrealistic beauty standards in teenagers putting them in harm’s way. By setting standards such as body shape, weight, and even hair color, teenagers could eventually end up with depression, suicide, and/or other mental health issues.

Aline Gonzalez and Sitwat Mian

In high school, it is common to find young teens questioning their appearance. However, these continuous doubts are harmful towards their mental and physical health. 

Social media exerts a fixed message saying that one must look a specific way to be considered beautiful. Even if this shouldn’t be the case, social media has a strong correlation with beauty standards, as it is a common contributing factor in teens comparing themselves to unrealistic expectations. 

According to the American Psychological Association, “social media can expose users to hundreds or even thousands of images and photos every day…resulting in greater dissatisfaction with body weight and shape.” When people, especially young teens, see these images on social media, it causes them to compare themselves to unreasonable standards without knowing most of what they see is not real.

Most people on social media only post what they want others to see, which, in most cases, are their positive and joyful moments. Of course, everyone has troubling times in their lives, but most influencers won’t share those specific moments, because they want others to see the positive side of them. This causes viewers to have the false imagery that the people they see on social media are living such nice and positive lives; this mindset leads them to compare themselves to the people they see.

Junior Ava Tucker believes social media is a simple way to deject someone. “ I think [social media] affects a lot, especially since it’s not really true,” Tucker said. “[People] don’t post their worst moments; they only post their best. So, [the only thing] people are really seeing is [their best moments], it can be really easy to [sadden someone].”

Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles, Ali Jazayeri, describes social media as a false creation of people. “People, when they are happy, post a lot of happy things,” Jazayeri said to the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. “But when I’m not happy,  I will consciously or unconsciously compare myself to others. As a result, I create a world that is not a true world because I imagine that everybody is happy in that world except me.”

Social media popularizes a fixed influence on beauty standards. It promotes the idea that you have to look or act a specific way to be beautiful, as most models and/or beauty influencers are tall and skinny with porcelain skin. These expectations affect numerous people, but studies have shown that beauty standards mostly affect women or young teens.

According to the National Library of Medicine, “studies have shown that young girls may obsess over their appearance, making other aspects of development less important, such as education or independence.”

Unrealistic criteria of a person based solely on what someone sees on social media have various negative health effects. Constantly comparing oneself can cause harm to a person’s mental or emotional health. It can lead to eating disorders, depression, and anxiety, as well as low self-esteem and confidence.

Despite this, Jazayeri explained that social media entangles people in their own reality that they created to the point that they don’t want to resolve or work on themselves anymore. It can also distance people from real life, so they forget who they are.

As the saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Everyone finds beauty in different things, and it is not up to social media to decide who or what is considered beautiful. It is a tool to connect with others and share meaningful moments, whether they be good or bad. 

While it is true that sometimes people compare themselves to others subconsciously, there are many ways to reduce this. Some ways could be to stay off or limit your time per day on social media, remember that most of the time the posts that affect you could be fake and are made to show off bits and pieces of the whole truth, and try to take the focus off the digital world and to remember the positive aspects of your own life.

There are millions of people who share a glimpse of themselves on social media, and in some cases, what you see through the screen is not entirely true. It is harmful to compare yourself to unhealthy and unrealistic standards.