Social media can be both good and bad for your body image. What really matters is how you use it. This requires you to use social media intentionally and strategically.

Social media can influence your body image — sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Although some social media content can perpetuate a negative body image, other content can promote a positive body image and encourage a healthier mindset.

Your experience with social media is determined by the type of content you consume and the kinds of accounts you follow.

It’s possible for social media to have a negative effect on your body image.

One survey looked at the effects of social media on sexual minority men. It found that there was a link between social media use and signs of negative body image — including body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms.

This was especially true for men who used image-centric social media platforms like Instagram.

A 2023 paper found that using social media is a “plausible risk factor for the development of eating disorders.”

Here are a few ways social media can negatively impact your body image.


As with other forms of bullying, cyberbullying can target a person’s appearance and lead to poorer self-esteem and body image.

Although bullying can and does happen outside of social media, cyberbullying might be particularly challenging to deal with. For example, bullies may operate anonymously, and social media makes the victims more “accessible” to bullies throughout the day.

Unrealistic beauty standards

Filters and editing tools can be fun to play around with, but it’s easy to forget that many of the pictures you see on social media are edited.

Plus, people tend to post their most attractive, exciting, positive pictures online — not of their mundane, everyday appearance. You might be tempted to compare your everyday appearance to someone else’s edited, filtered selfie.

Compared to their “flawless” pictures, your so-called flaws might be more apparent. This might make you feel like you’re not attractive enough or “perfect” enough compared to your peers.

The culture of comparison on social media and the fact that social media isn’t an accurate representation of everyone’s everyday life might make you feel inadequate.

One 2021 study found a link between how often people compare their looks to others on social media and overall body dissatisfaction.

Idealizing dangerous habits

Social media content can sometimes overtly encourage low self-image.

A 2022 study on TikTok and diet culture found that popular TikTok content often promotes disordered eating habits to viewers, presenting thinner body types as more ideal and preying on the viewers’ insecurities around their bodies.

The research found that teenagers were likely to see content promoting eating disorders within 8 minutes of creating a new account.

This content has serious real-world consequences. A 2024 study noted that “thinspiration” or “fitspiration” is likely to trigger poor body image and eating disorders, especially in young people who are prone to these behaviors.

At the same time, social media has some positive aspects — and it can, in some ways, positively influence your body image.

Support and community

Social media can be a great way to connect with others and seek support. For example, you can:

  • Find online support groups.
  • Join forums that have a positive impact on your life.
  • Get encouragement and advice, sometimes while remaining anonymous.
  • Find mental health resources and helplines.

These aspects of social media can be helpful to anyone who needs support, whether their difficulties relate to their body image or not.


Social media allows almost anyone to be a content creator: you don’t have to fit certain narrow beauty standards to be a model.

This makes it easier for people to follow a diverse group online — people of all sizes, races, abilities, genders, and backgrounds, not just those who fit the predominant beauty standards.

Seeing people who look similar to you living in, enjoying, and celebrating their bodies can help you feel more comfortable doing the same.

Body positivity

Body positivity is a movement and philosophy that promotes the idea that all bodies — no matter their size, abilities, color, gender, or shape — deserve appreciation and respect. It has roots in the fat acceptance movement.

Although the body-positive movement predates social media, social media has definitely made the concept more accessible to more people.

A 2021 study examined the impact of body-positive social media on women’s body image. It found that viewing body-positive content improved body image.

Further research found that body-positive social media can boost body image.

There are a few things you can do to cultivate a healthier relationship with social media and a healthier relationship with your body.

Tell the algorithms what you like

Social media algorithms send content your way when they think you’ll stare at it and engage with it long enough — so engage with content you like, not just “clickbait” that enrages you.

You might find it helpful to search for positive content that promotes body acceptance, self-care, and inclusivity. Seeking out this content (and engaging with it) makes it more likely that similar content will fill your feed.

Likewise, it’s perfectly OK to “hide” or “block” content that makes you feel bad about your body and appearance. Feel free to unfollow people that make you feel inadequate — even if they don’t intend to.

Nip comparison in the bud

Remember that people usually post positive and exciting things on social media — in that way, it’s like a “highlight reel.”

While it’s tempting to compare your everyday life to someone’s social media, it’s important to remember that their highlight reel will leave out many day-to-day mundanities, negative experiences, and bad hair days.

When you feel tempted to compare your ordinary work day to your high school friends’ vacation Instagram story, remind yourself that you’re comparing apples to oranges.

Engaging in a gratitude practice may also be helpful — once you start counting your good fortune, you might gain a healthier perspective.

Limit your time on social media

Reducing your social media usage might boost your body image.

A recent study, which looked at 220 undergraduate students between the ages of 17 and 25, found that participants who halved their social media usage for a few weeks experienced improvements in their body image.

But that’s easier said than done — compulsive social media use is real, and scrolling can be a tough habit to break.

You can try limiting your social media time by:

  • deleting frequently used social media apps from your phone
  • monitoring your screen time and setting limits
  • keeping your phone in another room when you get into bed to avoid scrolling mindlessly just before bed (and the second you wake up)
  • turning off social media notifications
  • making a point of doing fun in-person activities that don’t require you to use your phone, like meeting up with friends, exercising, gardening, or swimming

Read more about creating a healthy relationship with social media and learn how to take a social media break.

Embrace body neutrality

If body positivity doesn’t feel right for you, consider body neutrality.

While body positivity encourages you to love your body and find it beautiful no matter how it looks, body neutrality focuses on the idea that simply existing is good enough. You don’t have to find your body beautiful to be valued.

Sometimes, you may struggle to love your body. And that’s OK.

You are more than your body; you don’t need to find it beautiful to accept and care for yourself.

If you have a negative body image that is getting in the way of your day-to-day life, it may be helpful to consult with a mental health professional.

Counseling can help you create a healthier self-image, deal with appearance-related anxiety, and cultivate a healthy relationship with social media. Learn more about finding a therapist that suits your needs and a list of affordable online therapy options.

Support groups can also be immensely helpful. Check out the National Eating Disorders Association or The Yellow Couch Collective for an in-person or online support group.

Sian Ferguson is a freelance health and cannabis writer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She’s passionate about empowering readers to take care of their mental and physical health through science-based, empathetically delivered information.