Social media fasting benefits young women and girls, finds Colorado study
Taking a break from social media – even a short one – can have a powerful impact on the self-esteem of young women.
Researchers at Colorado College conducted a study with teenage girls, and found that just three days off social media led to significant improvements in body image.
It's not easy, of course, to skip one's daily intake of social media.
"The girls were worried. They had a hard time," said Colorado College Psychology Professor Tomi-Ann Roberts, who conducted the study with girls between the ages of 10 and 19.
Kailani Aragon is a student in one of Roberts' classes where the research was discussed. Aragon was asked to track her own social media use and write about her experience.
She said, "I've tried. It's definitely hard putting the phone down. It really is putting social media away. But I realize that was the biggest issue in my own self-esteem issues as a woman."
Roberts said, "Statistically what we showed is that the reason their body image improved was because their self-compassion improved. I can be more compassionate about myself if I'm not in the constant comparison. Because the constant comparison is always going to be, 'I'm not good enough, I'm not good enough, I'm not good enough.'"
Student Elena Berg also tracked her social media use. She said, "I definitely am worried for my generation. We're very appearance driven now, and a lot of it comes from social media and influencers."
Aragon added, "Realizing how much time I was putting into social media. Into destroying my self-confidence. It was a big realization for me."
Aragon and Berg say the self-reflection did prompt them to make changes. Removing apps and being more conscious of time and how they interact with their devices.
"I found that TikTok felt the most appearance driven for me and I really did notice after taking that break that it didn't make me feel good," Berg said.
"Making myself busy and putting the phone down, it led me to feel better about myself and I saw that that was worth it," added Aragon.
Fasting from social media can produce a form of hunger, according to Professor Roberts. Feelings of loneliness are real, and shouldn't be dismissed.
Professor Roberts concluded, "And so one of the things that we feel is really important about our media fast is that we have people do it with others."
The study was conducted with 65 girls, all of whom were dancers aged 10-19. Professor Roberts suggests that more research should be done to see if the positive effects of social media fasting are sustained over time, as well as what the impact might be of frequent fasting.
The study is linked at the National Institutes of Health site, see https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36152479/
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