by Jenna Laroque
Master of Clinical Psychology Student
When Did Health and Fitness become Unhealthy?
In recent years there has been a booming craze in the health and fitness industry. With no doubt, the aim of many trainers is to encourage our society to get outside and get moving. However, the influx in promotion of this message through social media has begun to have the opposite effect. In efforts to provide inspiration to young adults via Instagram, Facebook and the like, public figures have created a platform for harmful upward comparisons. An upward comparison is when a person compares themselves to someone that they perceive to be superior in at least one domain. This can be appearance, academics, wealth or career oriented. In most cases, the comparison is made to multiple domains, which makes us feel a sense of hopelessness rather than motivation or inspiration. These types of comparisons reduce our self-evaluations and perceptions.
What Can I do as a Parent?
Make social media an open topic of conversation that nurtures connection. Speak to your teen about things that came up on their news feed and yours. This will help to break the cycle of aimless scrolling. It will also open an avenue of discussion about the comparisons that are being made. By doing this, you can challenge any distorted or irrational upward comparisons
Help your teen count their own blessings, while appreciating others. The aim is to not loose hope in your own situation and to still have goals to strive towards. If your child wants to start going to the gym because of the comparisons they have made with public figures on social media - that is not necessarily a bad thing. However, you should strive to keep them grounded such that they can still appreciate the parts of their appearance that they are happy with or people in their life that they are grateful for. Upward comparisons don’t always have to be harmful, so long as the comparison is attainable and they can see that not all domains of their life need drastic improvement.
Monitor the amount of time spent on social media. Anecdotally, it can be very addictive and incredibly time consuming. There is nothing wrong with scrolling your news feed. However, at some point you are no longer catching up on friends lives, but rather creating a mental list of all the things you wish you had, wish you could do and wish you looked like. By limiting the amount of time spend on social media; we can avoid reaching this stage.