Psychologists ask the giants of social networks to protect the mental health of users

Las plataformas basadas en la apariencia como TikTok parecen ser particularmente dañinas para la imagen corporal de los usuarios.


Appearance-based platforms like TikTok appear to be particularly damaging to users’ body image.

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A team of psychology researchers describes a large body of evidence linking social media use to body image issues, due to to the excessive use of filters that end up also affecting mental health.

In the article published in the journal Body Image, the researchers describe how algorithms can intensify this situation and urge social media corporations to take action.

Lead author Jennifer A. Harriger, a psychology professor at Pepperdine University, outlines recommendations to combat these algorithms and protect the mental health of social media users.

First of all, they emphasize that the main responsibility lies with the social media companies themselves. The authors reiterate the suggestions of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), stating that social media companies should increase transparency of their algorithms, take steps to remove accounts that share content about eating disorders and make their research data more accessible to the public.

Unrealistic body standards on social media affect mental health

Appearance-based social media platforms like TikTok appear to be particularly damaging to users’ body image. On these platforms, teens are continually exposed to filtered and edited content that features unrealistic body standards.

According to recent evidence, this distorted environment increases users’ risk of body dissatisfaction and harmful conditions such as body dysmorphia and eating disorders.

“I’m interested in body image risk and protective factors, and some of my most recent research has focused on the role of social media,” Harriger explained.

In their report, Harriger and his team explain that these effects can be exacerbated by social media algorithms that personalize the content displayed to users. These algorithms “trap users” into content that is more extreme, less monitored, and made to keep them on the platform.

Former Facebook executive Frances Haugen has leaked documents revealing the social media giant was aware of research linking its products to mental health and body image issues among teens.

A TikTok whistleblower later leaked evidence of an algorithm that carefully manipulate the content displayed to usersprioritizing content that triggers emotionally to keep you engaged.

“Social media platforms can be valuable opportunities to connect with others, and users have the ability to personalize their own experiences. (choose what content to follow or engage with); but social media platforms also have drawbacks,” Harriger told PsyPost.

Such research can help inform social media literacy programs that teach teens about social media advertising, encourage them to use critical thinking when participating in social networks and teach them strategies to increase the positive content displayed in their feeds.

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