Poor Body Image Might Be Social Media’s Fault — Here’s How To Change Your Settings and See Uplifting Content Instead
These tricks aren't perfect, but they can help.
Body positivity — a movement that encourages people to have a good relationship with their body, regardless of their shape or size — is the wave of the future. But it’s easier said than done, especially when your social media feeds are bombarded with extreme weight loss tips and images of ultra-thin women.
Indeed, a recent scientific review published in the journal Body Image found evidence that images of idealized bodies may damage women’s self esteem. Researchers pooled data from 34 studies exploring the subject. Gaze-tracking tests showed that women with a high body dissatisfaction spent more time looking at images of women with bodies thinner than theirs. While it’s important to note that not every study in the review supported this theory, the cumulative findings could help women understand why they have a negative body image — and help them change it.
So, what should you do if you want to stop seeing images that lower your self esteem? There are steps you can take on Facebook and Instagram to prevent these kinds of posts from popping up on your feed. While none of these methods is perfect, they at least reduce the frequency of the damaging posts.
How To Control the Content You See on Facebook
There are two key ways to control the images and videos you see on Facebook: unliking and unfollowing certain pages, and hiding posts in your home page. To unlike and unfollow pages from your phone, click on your profile icon in the bottom right corner. In the menu that appears, tap the search bar and type “feed.” From the drop down menu, select “news feed.”
In your news feed settings, you can: 1) favorite certain people and pages so you see more positive content; 2) “snooze” pages, groups, and people temporarily; 3) unfollow people, pages, and groups; 4) reconnect, or re-follow people, pages and groups you previously unfollowed.
To hide an image or video that appears on your home page, click the three dots in the top right corner of the post. Select “hide post,” which tells Facebook you want to see fewer posts like it.
How To Control Your Instagram Feed
There are three things you can do to reduce the amount of unhealthy imagery you see on Instagram. First, any time you see a negative image or video, click the three dots in the top right corner. In the screen that pops up, click “not interested.” A message will appear over the post that says, “This post has been hidden. We’ll show fewer posts like this from now on.”
How To Clear Search History on Instagram
Next, clear your search history. To do this: 1) Visit the explore page on Instagram; 2) Click the search bar at the top of the page; 3) Click “see all” in the righthand corner; 4) In the “recent searches” page that appears, click “clear all.” A message will appear that reads, “Clear search history? You won’t be able to undo this. If you clear all your search history, you may still see accounts you’ve searched for as suggested results.” Click “clear all.”
How To Change the Content You See on Instagram
Lastly, start following accounts and hashtags that focus on the type of content you want to see. For example, search for “body positivity” in the search bar of the explore page. Click “accounts,” browse the various accounts that appear, and follow the ones you like. Then, head back to the explore page, and click “tags” to see various hashtags related to body positivity. Click on a hashtag, and in the next screen that appears, click the blue “follow” button. Once you do, Instagram will begin showing you this content each week. The goal is to start flooding your feed with the content you want to see, leaving less room for other images and videos.
An important note: If you see an ad that you don’t like, don’t click the “not interested” button that appears at the end of the ad. Instead, scroll past it as quickly as possible. Or click the three dots at the top right of the image or video, and click “not interested.” Some people believe that advertisers don’t care that you don’t want to see their content, so interacting with the ad in any sort of way will cause similar ads to appear on your feed.
Unfortunately, these methods for customizing your social media feeds are not perfect. It takes a while for Facebook and Instagram algorithms to understand that you don’t want to see certain content. So, you can also take a digital detox — try turning off your notifications or setting reminders for “downtime” when you don’t want to be on your phone. In fact, one study from 2020 found that unplugging from social media for a week improved participants’ mental well-being. Ultimately, taking even a few steps toward improving your social media consumption can have a positive impact on your self esteem.