Humans are social beings. We need the company of others to feel good. Interpersonal interaction releases hormones that reduce stress and make us happier, more confident and more positive. This phenomenon can also be observed in the online world. When using social media, the happiness hormone dopamine is released in our brain. In particular, many likes, followers and comments result in an increased release of dopamine in the blood. Dopamine motivates and makes us addicted in the long run. The result of increased social media use is sleepless nights and distraction from the essential tasks of everyday life. Studies show that the daily usage time of social media is continuously increasing. While in 2018 the average usage time was still 100 minutes per day, in 2020 the value increased to an average of 120 minutes worldwide. At the same time, however, the use of other media has not diminished. Although social media are actually there to bring people closer together and connect them with each other, paradoxically this often results in isolation from society. This can cause psychological problems, frustration and depression.

Myths give us our sense of personal identity, answering the question ‘Who am I?

— Rollo May

The seemingly flawless and perfect world presented in social media creates a deceptive image of reality, which younger generations in particular strongly orient themselves to and are influenced by. But this often results in problems, because puberty marks the beginning of a process of self-discovery. In this process, the individual defines his or her own characteristics and goals in distinction to society and its influences. Self-discovery is influenced primarily by previous socialization, but also by role models and peer groups. Social media such as Instagram or YouTube are not helpful in this process. Self-perception is a decisive factor in self-discovery.

Self-awareness is the perception of one's own person. Knowing oneself, one's strengths as well as weaknesses, being able to classify and process one's feelings, and understanding how one affects others. Self-perception is the basic building block of self-confidence.

We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.

— Virginia Satir

Influencers are idols for young people, who take them as role models. Many influencers are not aware of the scope of their role model function. Since young people often lack their own experiences, they take their cue from the experiences shared by their role models on social networks. This is where the so-called imitation phenomenon occurs, whereby young people tend to imitate the behavior of their idols and compare themselves to them.

This often leads to dissatisfaction, since the ideals aspired to from the seemingly perfect world are not attainable. In addition, the fear of not being recognized by society increases. In particular, emulating the mediated ideals of beauty lowers self-esteem and triggers a distorted self-perception. This leads to illnesses such as eating disorders or depression, which often end in social withdrawal and a feeling of futility. Envy of the life and appearance of others leads to a decline in acceptance of oneself. Those affected feel uncomfortable in the real world because they do not correspond to the ideal shown on social media. This phenomenon is also known as social anxiety (= social phobia).

Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.

— Jim Rohn

The effects of social media on one's own body image due to generally applicable and unrealistic beauty ideals set by society are strong. A positive body image is a fundamental prerequisite for one's own self-confidence. The bad influence results in many people having a negative body image. Within social media, the value or beauty of people is measured by numbers. A high number of likes, followers and clicks are crucial to be considered beautiful, successful or perfect.

Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.

— Coco Chanel

Beauty is associated with the visual charms of a person. However, it should be noted that beauty does not only refer to outward appearances. The inner values and characteristics of a person actually play the more important role here. Calling something beautiful is an individual assessment and should be in the eye of the beholder. Generally accepted ideals of beauty lead to a distorted self-perception.

This is also called dymsorphophobia in technical language. Here, one has a pathologically distorted perception of one's own body schema. One develops an image of one's own body in one's head that is clearly different from the actual one. The body schema is a spatial image of one's own body and deals with one's own body perception. The so-called body schema is influenced by experiences and emotions. This psychological phenomenon is also called body schema disorder. The disorder, which is anchored in the psyche, makes affected people feel uncomfortable in their own bodies. The biggest influencing factor on our body schema is our environment, which accompanies us our whole life. Too much attention is paid to the visual in our society, especially through social media such as Instagram and YouTube. A sch ne figure is the center of social attention in our body-oriented society. Even TV shows like "Germanys next Topmodel" are predominantly looking for "thin" and "beautiful" girls. But who actually defines who is considered beautiful? Every person is unique, no one exists twice and therefore every person is beautiful in their own special way. Such values should be conveyed to one's viewers and followers. Instead, the following is often presented: "The thinner and more popular you are, the more beautiful you are. As a result, self-confidence suffers, especially to show the youth of today that beauty comes from within and that body acceptance is essential. Nowadays, especially on social platforms, the term "body-shaming" is always in the foreground.

To all the girls that think you’re fat because you’re not a size zero, you’re the beautiful one. It’s society who’s ugly.

— Marilyn Monroe

Body-shaming means insulting or discriminating against a person because of their physical appearance. Body-shaming means not only criticizing others, but also your own body. Nowadays, people are often insulted on the Internet. It does not matter whether one is too "thin" or too "fat". Society always finds a reason to criticize someone. Body-shaming is everywhere and we are confronted with it in everyday situations. Our society is always trying to make us understand how important the outer appearance is. A simple example is magazines that advertise slides and beauty treatments on the cover. Body-shaming has fatal consequences for a person's psyche. As a result, those affected become increasingly dissatisfied with themselves. It is necessary to love and accept oneself instead of paying attention to hate comments from strangers. Body acceptance goes hand in hand with self-acceptance and is a definitive part in life, because without it you will not be happy in the long run. Therefore, nowadays it is essential not to listen to what other people think or say, but to focus on your own life and stay as you are.

Your individuality is the most valuable thing you have.

— Martha Beck

Appearances should only be a secondary matter and people should not be reduced to their appearance. It is of great importance to take a distorted perception of oneself and one's life seriously. Many people are not aware of the effects of social media on health. The crucial thing is to be able to love yourself as you are. In doing so, it is necessary to focus on one's own values and not stick to the generally accepted ideal of beauty. The individuality of a person is what makes him special and beautiful. The #bodypositivity trend advocates the abolition of unrealistic and discriminatory ideals of beauty. The demands go beyond the topics of self-acceptance and one's own body image. Body positivity means treating every body with respect. Social justice, diversity and anti-discrimination play a big role in this. The #bodypositivity movement represents a counter-movement to generally accepted beauty ideals and provides a positive outlook for the future. It provides for an acceptance of body diversity and should put the individuality of the person in the foreground. Instead of changing the body, hiding insecurities or flaws, it is important to accept oneself.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

Authors: Laura-Sophie Simon, Viktoria Vogel