Due to the shame and secrecy with eating disorders and the fact that parents are not attached at the hip to their kids, it is often very well into the illness that parents become aware that detrimental social media behavior is occurring.

The vast majority of parents adore their children and cannot fathom that their habit of posting photos of themselves in provacative poses could be part of their illness. Or that incessant comparing to photoshopped images is part of their daily routine that fuels the eating disorder.

Many of us are so busy just doing life that we’re unaware of “Pro-Ana” sites or the altered images our kids are trying to emulate. Our world is so body conscious and fat phobic that it may seem normal to try and make oneself look as good as possible. When in reality, this comparison to altered photos and videos is pouring gasoline on a raging bonfire. Parents need to trust your instincts when you suspect that a behavior is not supporting recovery.

Check out what my summer intern, Anna has to share about how social media has played a role in her eating disorder.

Social Media Can Be the Thief of Joy – by, Intern Anna

Social media. We all know it affects our daily lives and how we spend our time. What is less known is how it impacts those with eating disorders. From my experience, mental health can be negatively affected to a great extent by social media. In this post, I want to highlight how exactly it impacted my eating disorder and some tips I have to help control its impact. 

For me, social media has always been a bit of a struggle. I definitely dealt with comparing my life to others on social media. For the most part though, it did not affect how I lived my life until my eating disorder took hold.

Youtube was one of the biggest downfalls that led to disordered eating and exercise. There, I would spend hours scrolling through different workout videos and watching “what I eat in a day” videos. It became an unhealthy habit. It provided me with ideas on how to eat less and to exercise more. 

My tip for Youtube in particular is if you find your child or individual using Youtube to get ideas on how to restrict and such, to delete the app. This can be hard because there are other ways to access it, so I also recommend blocking the website. If that does not seem to be an appropriate response, using a time limit app to decrease the amount of time they spend on certain apps could also be very beneficial.

One setting I recently found on the iPhone is that you can set certain periods of downtime for your phone on specific days. If your child finds it hard to be away from their phone or from social media, incorporating some set times to be phone free could be very effective. This aids in creating a “staying in the present moment” mindset.

TikTok and Instagram were also very harmful to me during this time. I would see so many female bodies and it was hard not to compare. I found myself scrolling and unconsciously pointing out the things I did not have while looking at others. For me, deleting TikTok was one of the best things I did. This way, I did not have access to see as many bodies that I could compare to.

I set time limits on Instagram and unfollowed accounts that did not leave me feeling good. I would ask myself, does this account give me joy? Or does it usually bring comparison? That helped me to decide who to keep following and who to delete. I highly recommend this and it could be good to help as a caregiver to have an unbiased perspective on these accounts. 

Another way you can decrease the detriments of social media is to increase the amount of positivity accounts you follow.

Instead of following a lot of personal trainers, switch to more body neutrality accounts. This way you can curate your feed to increase your success in recovery. Personally, following more mental health and positive accounts only made me feel bad that I did not feel that way about myself. So as a disclaimer, these tips may not be one size fits all.

I will say, to this day I think the easiest way to stop the large amounts of comparison on social media is to have no social media. I deleted mine a year ago and I have found it to be the most helpful thing in the world for my mental health. 

Take what works and drop what does not. Trial and error is always an option too!

Intern Anna &