Contributor: Kirsten Haglund, Community Relations Representative for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center and Founder and President of the Kirsten Haglund Foundation
According to a Google study, 51 percent of teenagers (aged 13-17) spend more than three hours per day on their mobile phones social networking . Additionally, Pew Research Center shows 71 percent are on Facebook, 51 percent are on Instagram and no social trends show signs of these numbers going down . Technology, and specifically social media, is here to stay, whether we like it or not.
Often condemned for the ways it can encourage eating disorders, social media can also be used as a tool for long lasting recovery.
Additionally, wise use of social media not only supports individual recovery, but can help turn the tide of comparison and negativity online in order to make a larger impact.
Positive Ways to Adjust Your Social Media Usage
Here are some ways to adjust your social media habits to support eating disorder recovery:
First, stop and take stock of your social media habits. Ask yourself how much time you spend per day posting or scrolling through feeds. How do you usually feel afterward? Do you consciously or subconsciously compare yourself to others, either your body shape or size, or lifestyle? Do you constantly check back to see how many have liked a certain post? Do you over-share information, or get into debates with people in comment sections?
Take an inventory of your social media behavior and how it impacts you emotionally. It is likely that your sense of self-worth and identity is influenced by social media much more than you might expect.
Next, commit to prayer before you log on to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer, but just a dedication of the time up to God. Ask him to protect your mind and heart from what you might see, and to guide you in how to post, comment and like.
When going through recovery, you are very vulnerable mentally, emotionally and spiritually; for many, faith can be incredibly powerful in helping to protect and make the mind steadfast. Prayer helps center and focus the mind and spirit, and helps direct our eyes and thoughts in a way that is compassionate, kind, self-loving and measured, rather than reactive.
3. Go On a “Media Diet”
Be intentional with your time. Go on a “media diet,” the only kind of diet I approve of! Set aside a certain amount of time per day for social media time, and stick to it. Instead of counting calories, count minutes online, and when it’s time to get off or close the app, do it. With all that extra time, do some self-reflection, take a walk in nature, listen to music, read a book, or do some other act of self-care.
4. Be Vulnerable
On social media, we see everyone’s highlight reel, when usually the reality of their life is much more difficult, messy, and complicated. Instead of faking “fine,” make your posts real; be vulnerable. Use your social media accounts to express yourself in a healthy way, which means celebrating the good moments, and sharing times when you’ve had a challenge.
Talk with a therapist about what not to post in vulnerable moments (as some things can be very triggering for others), and with this guidance, go forward in confidence. Not only is authenticity empowering for you, but it is for others reading, as well. Can you imagine the major shift in culture if everyone started sharing what their life is really like, rather than pretending to be perfect?
Finding Your Voice in the Eating Disorder Community
Social media is a tool that can be used to destroy or to edify. Taking time to observe, pray, go on a media diet and be vulnerable can make social media use something that is beneficial for long-lasting recovery, rather than threatening to it. In fact, we need more recovered individuals and families shining their lights into the social media space, not retreating. Pray for confidence to be boldly authentic on social media, and see the ripple effect explode from your positivity.
About the author: Kirsten Haglund continues to work as an advocate for greater awareness of eating disorders and resources for care. Since she won the crown of Miss America 2008, she has spoken on numerous college campuses, worked with youth and church groups domestically and abroad, lobbied Congress with the Eating Disorders Coalition, and started her own non-profit, the Kirsten Haglund Foundation, to raise funds and assist families financially in seeking treatment for eating disorders. She is also the Community Relations Specialist for Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center.
References: Google/Ipsos, U.S., “The Mobile-First Mindset of Gen Z,” all teens defined as 13- to 17-year-olds n=1,000, Hispanic teens n=996, Black teens n=1000, 18- to 24-year-olds n=1,009, 25- to 34-year-olds n=1,004, Aug. 2016.
 Pew Research Center’s Internet Project Combined Omnibus Survey, March 7 – April 4, 2016. “Social Media Update 2016”
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on June 27, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 27, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com