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Eating Disorders Amplified by Social Media

Colleen Schliemann | Writer



As social media has become an integral part of our society, eating disorders have also become more prevalent. Links between eating disorders and increased social media use have been proven in recent findings.


“In the last two years, the number of adolescents admitted into hospitals for eating disorders has skyrocketed, with medical experts citing increased time on social media as a contributing factor,” Brookings, a credible news organization said.


The Social Media Victims Law Center elaborates on this “According to a study conducted in Australia and New Zealand, 51.7% of girls aged 13 and 14 with a social media account were likely to report disordered eating routines such as skipping meals or strict exercising. Forty-five percent of boys of the same age were likely to report the same problems.”


Elizabeth Lewis, LSW (License in Social Work), a counselor at Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC), said that eating disorders can affect your mind, as well as your body. She mentions that having our brains deprived of nutrients through a lessened food intake can impair concentration, memory, and mood regulation.


Lewis also said that we track others we see to “fit in.” She elaborates on how negative comments get more attention in our brains than positive comments and negative comments are processed faster. 


“Brains process rejection and getting physically hurt in similar ways because social exclusion could mean death in the animal kingdom,” Lewis said.


In more recent times, TikTok, one of the largest social media platforms in the world, has faced backlash for not addressing eating disorder content that can be searched and seen. They— as well as many other applications— have made certain terms unsearchable, and if they are searched the user is sent to a “need help” page. This page contains resources such as the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) volunteer hotline, Brookings reports. 


Yes, this is a big step to stop people from searching content that can be dangerous, but unfortunately, it does nothing to stop their algorithms from pushing content that can amplify disordered behavior. 

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