New Delhi: With increasing addiction to social media platforms and the age of ‘likes’; we have been introduced to a seemingly new way of reaching out and getting an instant opinion poll on how we look.
While the expectations are to receive compliments, this also opens the door to unwarranted remarks; which can leave us feeling vulnerable and distraught. Body-shaming over the internet can range from unpleasant sarcastic and snide remarks to blatant fat-shaming, nasty comments and objectification.
As per Dr Kedar Tilwe, Psychiatrist and Sexologist at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital, the anonymity offered by the platform and the inherent insecurity of the ‘Troll’ can sometimes combine to make a morbid virtual safe-haven for people to shed social etiquettes.
The end result is comments which are not only unsavoury but downright petty and malicious. Often these do not even have direct relevance to the post or topic being discussed, making them even more vindictive and hurtful.
When one is exposed to body-shaming, it can directly lower the self-esteem, self-worth and may cause a confidence crisis for the victim. It may be responsible for precipitation of major psychiatric illnesses such as Depression, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Girls are more impacted by body shaming and early teens are a vulnerable age group, says the expert. Here are some ways we can deal with such behavior, if it’s directed at you or someone you know.
The official way
Social media literacy and awareness is something that all of us need to become familiar with. This should include awareness of the nature of the social media platform, its etiquette and protocol. Most sites have clear policies with regard to the content and often have a mechanism of reporting hateful personal speech. So you need to avail this mechanism and report such personal attacks.
The only opinion which matters about your body image is yours, so remind yourself about it. Also recognize the difference between the ‘virtual’ versus the ‘real world’; acknowledging this variance can help you deal with it more easily. Reach out to family or friends and discuss the thoughts that are bothering you. Or try a ‘stress buster’ or relaxation technique that you are aware of.
Sometimes Anxiety, persistent negative thoughts, depressive rumination and lowered stress tolerance may persist despite the above mentioned interventions. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), Supportive counselling or even appropriate medication if required, can help in empowering you to deal with such situations. So, reach out to a mental health professional near you or enroll with support groups or helplines are also easily accessible.
The social network
Online platforms are basically virtual communities or network of people. So if you see someone being victimized or ostracized speak up and call out the ‘troll’ if possible. Doing this can take away the anonymity, which is often the body-shamers most effective protection. It will also provide a much needed source of support and assurance to the victim.
Body-shaming is prevalent across all age groups but often begins during the teenage years. So sensitising children through awareness programs, open forum discussions or even simply leading by example is perhaps the need of the hour when it comes to reducing the specter of body-shaming.