Eating disorders, mental health crises and poor self-image have all been linked to social media, but body image activist Taryn Brumfitt says the online world should not be demonised.
The Australian of the Year took to the national stage to discuss her advocacy helping people embrace their bodies and busting myths about health.
Though Ms Brumfitt acknowledged the detrimental impact of apps such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, she said users could take control of their feeds and develop a healthier relationship with social media.
“We don’t want to demonise social media because social media is here to stay,” she told the National Press Club on Tuesday.
“If we are looking at landscapes or we’re looking at cat videos, or we’re looking at anything other than bodies, it’s not harmful to us.
“What we need to do is empower them to understand that social media – and for all of us adults – is not something that’s happening to us. It’s something that we engage with.”
Australians should adhere to sitcom star and fellow body activist Jameela Jamil’s mantra: block, mute, delete, repeat.
“We are in the driver’s seat and we can allow people in or not allow people in,” she said.
“I think we need to take back a little bit of control about what we see and always challenge that social media feed, (and ask) is who I’m letting in my life making me feel good and want to be a better person and want to contribute to the world or are they making me feel bad?”
Asked where the line between health, obesity and body positive lies, Ms Brumfitt says the concepts are not mutually exclusive.
She says people who feel good about their bodies are more likely to exercise, eat fruit and vegetables, get cervical screenings and wear sunscreen, while being less likely to smoke, take illicit drugs or vape.
“Making people feel shame or talking about the obesity epidemic has got us nowhere,” Ms Brumfitt said.
“It makes people feel bad in their bodies and when people feel bad in their bodies they don’t make great choices about their bodies.”
(Australian Associated Press)