Be yourself on social media, report recommends

Woman's hand on computer mouse

Social media users should present more honest pictures of their lives to help them develop a more positive body image, according to a new report by the University of Strathclyde and the Mental Health Foundation Scotland.

The report also recommends that users limit the time they spend on social media and apps and becoming aware of types of content which might evoke a negative reaction in them.

The report, titled #HealthySocialMedia, is the product of a conference organised by Strathclyde and the Foundation. Young people, teachers, social media influencers, charities and others came together at the event to share personal experiences of using social media and the impact it has had on their body image.

Dr Petya Eckler, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Strathclyde, was Project Lead at the University. She said: “Social media can be fun, it can be supportive and empowering, it connects us with friends and keeps us informed.

“But it can also create negative and alienating experiences and, for many young people, it triggers self-doubt, insecurity, and poor body image.

“Our new report recognises this link and uses people’s first-hand experiences to build some key strategies for better social media experiences.”

A key aim of the conference was to learn from people’s experiences to produce strategies and possible solutions to help build a more positive relationship between social media use and body image. Participants discussed how they present online and offline, how this may differ with face-to-face communication and how they feel when on social media. They also identified specific negative and positive digital behaviours, and possible strategies for healthy social media use.

The report is accompanied by a worksheet which included a range of discussion questions that can be used by organisations and individuals to kick-start conversations about social media and the impact on body image, as well as suggestions for moving forward.

See videos from speakers at the #HealthySocialMedia event, highlighting a range of experiences and perspectives on the issues of social media and body image.

The conference took place as part of Engage With Strathclyde, an annual, award-winning series of events showcasing research and innovation from across the University’s four faculties. The week-long series provides opportunities for Strathclyde staff to communicate research and technologies, and to develop partnerships with industry and the public and voluntary sectors.