Imagine a teen girl posting a selfie on social media. She likes the picture because she is smiling in it and the sun is shining on her nicely. Later that day, she reads the comments, which are mostly positive, but one person has posted a negative comment about her being “fat.” How might that affect an adolescent who is already feeling vulnerable?
Similar scenes of “body shaming” play out in the lives of adolescents trying to navigate cultural understandings of beauty, pressure from peers to fit in, and constant images of “perfect bodies” shown on TV and in movies. Social media, because it is so ubiquitous, can be particularly hurtful. These pressures can combine with biological and psychological factors to promote an adolescent’s negative body image, purging and fasting behavior, or even an eating disorder.