Essay’s and Reflections

Social Media’s Toll on Health Among Our Youth

There have been many cases about eating disorders among youth along with drug usage. Social media is considered a way in which youth are negatively influenced by their peers. Social media shows signs of approval such as likes, retweets, and even emojis such as hearts, thumbs up, and the “on point” hand sign. The vast majority of the time signs of approval are among negative views such as the definition of beauty and what new trends to follow. Victoria’s secret models, Hollywood’s Hall of Fame people, and many other well-known figures have been used to portray beauty. Women are to be slim, fit, and curvy while men should be at least six feet tall, muscular, and dress well. There are many other criteria that define beauty in the eyes of the beholder which highly impacts the lives of youth as they grow into their maturing bodies. Youth are always on social media and may even see it fun and cool to get drunk, high, and wasted making them more susceptible to trying out more of these trends. Drug usage is one of the many ideas promoted across social media. Negative impacts of social media include eating disorders as well as drug usage among youth.


While many use social media, almost none realize the risks they are putting themselves into especially youth. As you grow up, you see changes in your body and tend to compare your body to other ones. This becomes more common among social media accounts belonging to younger people. You now see that being thin and curvy is always better, yet you don’t look like those girls being praised upon across your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You want to look just like them, so you start to eat less, workout more, plan to quickly lose weight, and don’t realize just what you are doing to your body. Eventually eating disorders arise and you neglect your body’s needs for nutrients, water, protein, etc.


Women are not the only ones dealing with eating disorders; men deal with them as well. There are more cases of women feeling like their body is inadequate to the definition of beauty. However, men probably suffer the most extreme eating disorders because their symptoms go unnoticed compared to the symptoms of their counterparts. In a very recent journal that is primarily used for tracking men’s health, stated that, “…they (Eating Disorders) were constructed as a (young) “female issue” and “a source of titillation” rather than as deserving serious consideration” to show the lack of attention men get when diagnosed with eating disorders (Sweeting, 3). Even eating disorders are seen as a double standard because of how “feminine” of an issue they are.


Based on this same journal from above, it was found that “men who have eating disorders in the UK suffer from anorexia nervosa around the ages of 15-19, bulimia nervosa from 19-29, and other eating disorders without diagnostic as early as the ages of 10-14” (Sweeting, 6). The article informed the reader that information in regards to eating disorders was spread across media to see how influential it was to combat and prevent eating disorders. Based on the results, men suffered about 1/3rd of the percentage of the people who are diagnosed with bulimia, anorexia, and other eating disorders. This journal proved that if information about eating disorders was spread across a large number of newspapers, article, social media, and other forms of media, it was more than likely for eating disorders to be diagnosed among both women and men in time.


Another health journal similar to the one previously stated named “Influence of Mass Media on Emergence of Eating Disorders Amongst Young People” was used in an article to help further support information about eating disorders. This article introduced itself by first defining what anorexia means to have a more stunning start. The definition of anorexia “comes from Greek origins and means no desire to eat” (Kazmierczak, 1). Anorexia is now seen as self-starvation and something so outstanding that it is described at the ability to control hunger. On the contrary, this is not the case because in present day United States, there are two type of anorexia classifications which are the “restricting type” and “binge eating/purging type.” These are not outstanding capabilities but rather serious health conditions and a cry for help. The journal also explains that the highest rates of morbidity are among adolescence and the majority of the time are found in women. The percentage of these two factors was as high as 90/95% of the time.


In this same journal, a study was conducted on the way people perceive their bodies because at a very early age perception begins through parents, then peers, and finally the media which has become the most influential. The results were very displeasing because as much as 92% of all respondents were dissatisfied with their appearance. One of the largest finding from this study was, “Idealized images promoted by the media make people perceive themselves as less attractive than what they really are: always too fat and not pretty enough. The ‘distorted mirror’ effect causes 88% of the respondents to feel fat, although they are perceived as slim by others” which goes to show how much of an influence media really is. Social media promotes miracle diets, slim fit beauties, and attractive people in general. There is no way of escaping such “beauty” other than making sure you look just like them. People will combat eating disorders one day in the same way they are indirectly being promoted across all forms of media.


Facebook is just one of many social media websites where someone could post, share, comment, and like on any idea, topic, trend, etc. as someone pleases. “Do You ‘Like’ My Photo?” is an article written by Annalise G. Mabe, Jean K. Forney, and Pamela K. Keel to enlighten people of how social media such as Facebook can impact your life. They explained that positive comments, likes, and shares were signs of approval whether it be a negative or positive idea. It was explained that the purpose of this way driven by pure curiosity on two contributing factors, the media and peers, and how they affect eating disorders among college women. Movies, television, magazines, and social medial portray beauty as being thin which in turn leaves teens and adults with an unrealistic view of what beauty is. Peers can also influence body dissatisfaction and future eating pathology. Peers may make nice comments about how slim you look or negative ones such as “lay off the chips”.


It was found that “the way women use Facebook was associated with a greater likelihood of disordered eating among college aged women” (Mabe, Forney, and Keel, 13). Yet, in this study it was found that typical Facebook use contributed to maintenance of weight/shape concerns and states of anxiety if Facebook was used for only 20 minutes per day. This is an unlikely scenario for women to not use Facebook given the fact that there are now apps to have Facebook as easily as on your phone. Note that association does not mean causation. There are many more factors contributing to eating disorders but social media is something that has been impacting everyone’s lives from the very beginning.


Barbie dolls are usually the first toys girls get when they are toddlers and will forever live in their childhood memories. Often enough through, a Barbie Doll may mean so much more than a toy. This is what Julie, author of “Brainwashed by Barbie…What a Doll!”, wanted to elaborate in her writing.  Barbie Dolls have become a huge topic of controversy in terms of feminine beauty. Women go through numerous plastic surgeries in order to reach their desired look and figure. There have been cases of such extreme plastic surgery that one woman was named the Human Barbie because of her idea to become a Barbie Doll herself. Women aren’t the only ones getting such extreme makeover. Men have gotten plastic surgeries as well to better fit the standard of male beauty. The Human Barbie is the female version while the male version is known as the Human Ken Doll. Social media made the Human Barbie and the Human Ken Doll a huge topic of interest that quickly spread like wildfire. Barbie dolls became the new standard of feminine beauty and continue to persist.


Julie, author of the blog, “Brainwashed by Barbie…What a Doll!”, even used primary resources to help support her argument that Barbie Dolls are a poor way to define feminine beauty. Barbie Dolls seem harmless at first but in 1965 a new Barbie Doll was released. This new Barbie Doll was named “Slumber Party Barbie” which took a whole other direction on the concept of feminine beauty (Juie, n.p). The doll came with a book on how to lose weight which told young girls who played with Barbie Dolls to not eat and to not weight any more than 110 lbs. This was such an unrealistic approach to what your body should be given the fact that at a young age, bodies will continuously develop and change. After many complaints about the negative ideas being portrayed from this doll, it was quickly taken off the market. However, the ideas of feminine beauty still linger in the minds of young girls. The author even gave information of a study that reported 70 million people worldwide who suffered from eating disorders. Young women between the ages of 12 and 25 constituted about 90% of those with eating disorders. To show how impacting one doll could actually be.


In “Influence of Social Media on Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Young Adults” written by Megan A. Moreno and Jennifer M. Whitehill, they researched how influential social media is on alcohol use. They discovered that pictures, posts, tweets, and other online displays of alcohol behavior have been correlated with offline alcohol behavior and risky drinking. They argue that the popularity of social media such as Facebook could be influential as to what gets posted and communicated about, in this case alcohol. The two women focused on Facebook and Twitter as social media website. The authors emphasized “the idea of approval on social media such as likes, shares, and retweets” (Moreno and Whitehill, 2). Signs of approval tend to influence people to be more likely to do something or say something such as the consumption of alcohol. On social media, drinking alcohol is seen as something normal and fun to do. It was often said that, “If you aren’t doing it, then I don’t know what you’re doing” to show that if you weren’t drinking alcohol then you weren’t cool. Alcohol exposure on social media contributed to a greater influence of under aged drinking. Social media is a powerful tool in our everyday lives and could be used for negative behaviors such as alcohol consumption starting at a very early age.


A book published by Pearson Education called “Drugs, Behavior, and Modern Society” is used to explain the effects of drugs on your body and mind, behavioral changes, and how modern society influences you. Charles F. Levinthal, author of this book, explained that “peer-refusal skills are techniques to resist different forms of social pressure to smoke, drink, or use other drugs” (Levinthal, 398). This includes social media as social pressure because of the higher likelihood to drug use. Social media in modern society defines our side of different arguments such as whether the drinking age should be lowered or if marijuana should be a schedule 1 drug or not. Social media takes a major role in our lives and how likely we are to try new things. A chapter in the book is called “Substance-Abuse Prevention” which explains methods of resisting drug use. There are many ways to say no to drugs but also safe ways to say no. The chapter revolves around social skills and personal decision making.


Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents: A Guide for Parents, Teachers, and Professionals is a guide for adults seeking help for an adolescent. Mr. Michael S Jellinek is the author of this book and decided to write about teenagers because he saw it as the point in someone’s life where experimentation is at its peak. He knew that experimentations meant the beginning of intimate relationships, drug usage, alcohol drinking, and other new practices. He starts off his chapter “Substance Abuse” by introducing the fact that most teenagers experiment with alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana without developing any long term problems. Mr. Jellinek states in his book that social media is a potential factor in this behavior. He wrote, “Photos and videos of intoxicated teens are posted on the Internet on sites such as Youtube, Facebook, and Myspace” to show how social media is a way for teens to communicate about where to buy, sell, and use drugs (Jellinek, 12). Social media websites have become very popular among teens but also risky behavior increases. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide facts about certain drugs like marijuana and cocaine and methods of getting high. Although social media is a positive aspect of life it could also negatively impact teenagers into their adult years.


In an online article named “The Influence of Social Media and Teen Drug Use” gave credibility to for their findings. It was said that the prevalent use of social media causes peer pressure to jump from social gatherings into your home to the exciting idea that your parents will be away for the night which increases the chances of teens using drugs by 2x. One statement made during the study about teen drug usage and social media was, “With … cameras on every cell phone capturing every facet of life, it is no wonder that pictures of teens using drugs and alcohol are making their way onto social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace” (The Influence of Social Media and Teen Drug Use, n.p). Another find was that about 3/4ths of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years old admitted that seeing photos of classmates using drugs on social media which in turn encouraged them to do the same. Social media is simply another form of peer pressure.


“Teen Alcohol and Drug Trends” is the name of an online article that both defies and defends social media. It was stated that social media could be used to influence teens both in a positive way and a negative way. One could encourage drug usage and alcohol consumption while another could discourage. This article also explains that “at least 75% of teens said that seeing people use drugs and drink alcohol on social media makes them want to try it as well” (Teen Alcohol and Drug Trends, n.p). Social media can quickly influence teens to develop risky behaviors and health conditions. It was discovered that teens are 3 to 4 times more likely to have used marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco. This goes to show that social media negatively impacts the health of youth.


In Chicago, the Chicago Department of Public Health decided to launch a public awareness campaign to warn youth of the dangers of vaping. This article has proven that social media could also be used for the benefit of youth. Social media was used to warn teens of e-cigars and vaping. They advertised dangerous health warnings. The Chicago Department of Public Health chose Facebook and Twitter to start their campaign because they are the most widely used social media websites thus far. Many campaigns across social media are helping prevent youth from vaping. Department of Public Health commissioner, Julie Morita said that vaping is just preparation for regular tobacco use because of the growing behavior to inhale something from a device. After some time, it was found that “the rate of nicotine use decreased from 13.6% in 2011 to 10.7% in 2013” (Gurciullo, n.p). This campaign is said to continue on for a longer period of time than anticipated because of the positive results from social media use.

(Essay Written by Aileen Lopez during Rhet 105 course at UIUC)


Throughout the course of Rhet105 at UIUC. I have been given the privilege to be able to review my writing and determine what I should work on to improve my writing. In the comments left by my professor, I have been able to identify some of my flaws such as my analysis paragraphs needing more detail. Time has allowed me to learn more writing skills and how to better approach papers; for example, work on your five page paper over the course of a week and on the last few days revise and submit. I will revise papers with a friend and possibly even go to the writing center for extra input.