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Do Social Media Platforms Encourage Connection or Toxicity In The Health And Wellness Community?

26th November 2021

26th November 2021

By Innermost

Questions over the positive and negatives side of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are a hot topic, and widely debated. Not just in the health and wellness community: but in all walks of life.

When evaluating the impact of these platforms, though, the question, “does social media offer greater good qualities, or more bad ones?” is a huge one, and the answer to this is one that will likely differ from person to person. We’ve all had different experiences with social media platforms: some good, some bad.

One thing that we can probably all agree on, though, is the sheer scale and impact of social media platforms. It’s quite frankly unquestionable. As one of the most popular activities online worldwide, with an estimated 3.6 billion users in 2020 alone, with this number expected to scale up to 5.5 billion by just 2025, it’s important that we take time to monitor and reflect on the impact that these platforms and their practices are making on our society.

One thing is pretty universal when it comes to health and wellness: connection is key. As humans, we need connection with other human beings to survive, be happy and stay healthy. And social media helps us do this. With this in mind, here at Innermost, we’re particularly interested in the impact on the health and wellness community and feel an integral element of responsibility when it comes to being a voice for the community in this respect.

Social media and the wellness community

When it comes to the wellness space and community, we’re interested in a few questions. And we’re not just talking about physical heath here, but mental health, too. They go and in hand.

We’re talking how social media affects relationships, how the platforms affect our mental health, and how these in turn, affect our self-esteem. Only then can we understand the true scale of social media’s impact, and answer the all-important question: “is social media good, or is social media bad?”

How do we interact online?

From inspirational accounts to food tracking Instagram pages and more, there’s a lot more than it may seem on the surface when it comes to how the health and wellness community interacts with each other online. Whilst some may argue that using social media platforms to track weight loss or dieting can lead to a toxic culture, others may counter this, with the notion that accounts of this nature foster a community of motivators, supporters, and in turns, friends.

In terms of working out, connection with other people allows us to be motivated, feel accomplished and celebrate together, too: all hugely important factors when it comes to your self-efficacy and holding yourself accountable when trying to reach a particular fitness goal, or similar.

Feeling a bit on the fence when it comes to your answer now?

Let’s break it down.

The benefits of social media

Broadly speaking, the benefits of social media are extensive.

The platforms can connect people on other ends of the planet instantaneously: something that we definitely all relied upon heavily in the last eighteen months, for sure.

Campaigns such as Joe Wicks’ daily online PE classes spring to mind, in which throughout the pandemic, the TV presenter and body coach put on a morning fitness live stream for the country to follow along with during the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic. There’s not much toxicity to take from that, is there?

Furthermore, social media benefits in general include the ability to make meaningful connections from the comfort of your home, seek specialist advice from those on a separate continent and even the ability to discover health and wellness trends from other countries or areas that you may not have come across in your immediate area. And there’s more…

Other social media benefits include:

  • Facilitates the sharing of new ideas and collaborative learning
  • Acts as a place to seek support
  • Can be used to campaign for social and community benefits
  • Can help develops a positive digital footprint by eliminating potentially harmful online ideologies

The disadvantages of social media

On the flip side, you could argue that the ability to hyper-connect with potentially thousands upon thousands of users and individuals worldwide is not something that is natural for humans, and potentially overwhelms our communicative abilities, and perhaps alters them in a way that we would not normally experience with face-to-face connections.

Oh yes. We’re talking about the diminishment of responsibility that comes as a result of the element of anonymity from social media platforms. Or, simply put, the ability to hide behind a screen. This can lead to a huge impact on relationships, friendships and more.

Other disadvantages of social media include:

  • Social media can lead to laziness
  • Decreased social interaction
  • Heightened pressure
  • Requires the need to always be “switched on”
  • Creates an altered sense of self
  • Leads to user comparisons

From this, it’s fair to say that there is an undeniable pressure around social media platforms. And with all this in mind, it’s important to consider how social media affects us, and how social media affects body health. All of these disadvantages would have a huge impact on our mental health and happiness, and therefore leading to a decline in our overall health and wellness, too.

How social media affects us

From our day-to-day relationships, both romantic and platonic, all the way through to our self-view and esteem, social media platforms are hugely influential, and it’s unquestionable that they have a distinct affect on our emotions every single day.

In a study reviewed by The Health Assured Foundation, 38% of adults think that social media is actively harmful. The studies assessed by the foundation found a range of worrying statistics in addition to this one, such as the fact that the young people surveyed cited that the majority of social media sites make their anxiety worse. And that’s just one example of how social media can affect our health.

How social media affects the wellness community

In terms of the fitness community, our attentions turn to the area of the internet that “fitspiration” accounts and hashtags call home. A combination of the words ‘fitness’ and ‘inspiration’, if you’re unfamiliar with the term of ‘fitspiration’, which is also commonly referred to as ‘fitspo’, this refers to social media users that use their accounts and platforms to post and share photos, videos and content that is posted with the intent to inspire other users to lose weight. The trend has expanded to feature hashtags such as ‘thinspiration’, too.

Unfortunately, these images and videos are typically of an extreme nature and would require users to take somewhat extreme measures to achieve such results – and it’s an area that has been a huge problem for the fitness community and is one that has given the community a potentially dangerous stereotype, and has been attributed as a hugely harmful influence, aiding in the development of eating disorders.

In a thematic analysis conducted by the American Psychological Association, the association concluded that exposure to such content results in increased body satisfaction, which not only has a detrimental affect on users’ mental health, but potentially their physical health, too.

As a member of the fitness community, and as a brand within the fitness sphere, we feel that it is important to shed light on this area of social media when it comes to health and wellness. It’s important to monitor our own feeds, content and conversations around fitness goals and strategies to ensure that no one around us is affected by these ideologies… and unfortunately, this area is one of the notable disadvantages of social media as a whole.

Summary

So, is social media toxic? Whilst social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram provide users with a hugely beneficial platform that allows for a range of beneficial connections, there is a distinct dark and potentially dangerous side to the platforms, too. And it is time that these ideologies are erased in favour of encouraging and healthy discourse around fitness and health online.

Everyone in the health and wellness community has a part to play when it comes to taking responsibility for maintaining a positive, welcoming and encouraging platform on their individual accounts and pages, and that includes brands such as us.

Here at Innermost, we are conscious in every post, product and collaboration that we take part in to ensure that we are promoting a positive message, one that is based in fact, science and from a place of positivity and encouragement.

References

  • Health Assured (2021). Social media and mental health | Health Assured. [online]. Click here.
  • apa.org. 2021. Objectifying Fitness: A Content and Thematic Analysis of #Fitspiration Images on Social Media. APA PsycNet. [online]. Click here.
  • Statista (2021). Number of Worldwide Social Network Users. [online]. Click here.
  • Insider (2019). People With Eating Disorders Getting ‘Thinspiration’ from Youtuber. Click here.

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