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Social media and self-care: can the two ever be compatible?

By Nicole Rees-Williams

Design by Aimee Lee

Social Media. Self-Care. These two things seem not necessarily compatible. If you read any information on what to do to wind down or take some time for yourself, it will often involve logging out of social media. With this in mind, why is it that health and wellness accounts are so popular?

There are a plethora of accounts related to fitness and wellness. Tammy Hembrow, for example, is a mother of two, has her own clothing line, and her own fitness app helping people achieve their fitness goals every single day. She builds her body with strength and weight training and has achieved a fantastic physique in doing so. There is nothing wrong with following people like Tammy, she is a brilliant role model and genuinely aims to improve people’s health and fitness.

But if you’re only following people whose job it is to promote health and fitness, then you will only be seeing the fittest bodies. Only seeing physiques that demonstrate the absolute pinnacle of fitness every day will start to make you think that your own is inadequate in comparison. But what you have to remember, is that although fit bodies dominate most of social media, they only dominate a small percentage of the actual population.

If you take a second to take in all the different body types, you see on a simple walk to the shop you’ll find the pinnacle of fitness is more likely the least popular body type. There is nothing wrong with being any type of body type, but if you’re restricting your viewing to one kind of body, any other bodies aren’t going to seem like they compare.

Last year I went through a bit of a social media detox. After months of complying to a strict workout routine, I found that when looking at pictures of myself I still didn’t look the same as other people who had done the same. After many photographs taken at bad angles, (which I definitely overanalysed,) I deleted all social media. I was so tired of trying so hard to look like what social media was telling me to yet not being able to get there. I decided to stop exercising altogether and to eat whatever I wanted. Deleting social media was a freeing experience. I found that I didn’t actually miss Instagram, I usually spent all my time on the app just because it was there. My break from my exercise regime was necessary and gave me a chance to recover both physically and emotionally. After a while, however, I realised I was missing movement and felt ready to continue improving my strength and fitness. I knew I needed to find a new way of doing this that wasn’t so vigorous and all-consuming. I needed to take care of myself based on self-care, rather than taking care of myself to attain a certain goal.

After getting into student journalism I wanted to get social media back so that I could be credited by having my Instagram account tagged. This, of course, meant getting back Instagram, the main source of many of my insecurities. So, I had to make an active change in the type of media I was consuming in order to care for myself. Instead of following just people who were what I wanted my fitness goals to look like, I followed people whose entire ethos was self-love and self-care from a range of different body types.

I found the exercises that worked for me by following Yoga with Adriene instead of the vigorous ‘2 Week Six Pack Abs’ series’ I used to follow, only to not look like what was promised. Something important to remember is that even if every person on earth followed the same diet and the same exercise routines, we would still all look different, and this is totally normal. I now follow accounts who promote positivity and self-care which creates a wholly more positive social media experience. I exercise to feel good mentally and to feel stronger physically, not to look a certain way. Knowing that I’m keeping healthy is now much more comforting to me than restricting my diet and lifestyle just so that my stomach will look like an influencer who has a completely different body type to me.

Would our mental health be that bit better if social media did not exist? Probably. Social media gives you a look into people’s lives that you never used to see, and therefore adds to that temptation to compare yourself. But unfortunately, social media is not going anywhere. A lot of life relies on social media now, and this is not going to change. So instead of forcing yourself onto a platform where you are constantly miserable by what you see – make a conscious effort to change this. Block people who do not bring you joy, follow people who inspire you. Follow accounts that don’t just post selfies and fitness tips but accounts that post art, music, entertainment, even memes. Brightening up what you see every day will brighten up your own happiness in return.

Some social media accounts to follow: @ashleygraham @stephanieyeboah @bodyposipanda @tess.daly @megan_rose_lane @jvn @adrienelouise

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