Newcastle body image coach, Meg Linton, has made it her mission to bring awareness to the impacts of social media and the body image issues it imposes on the young and impressionable.

As a body image coach, movement practitioner and personal trainer, Meg has witnessed first-hand the impact digital media has on young Novocastrians.

Meg has culminated three and a half years of research into her debut book, ‘Watch Ya Language‘, projected to hit shelves on May 22.

“I was motivated by an inner feeling, and I just needed to share my experience of comparison, judgement, people-pleasing and perfection,” Meg said.

“Whilst writing the book, I dived into how dangerous social media and body editing apps can be and what impacts they’re having on people, especially our young kids.”

While Meg didn’t have access to social media growing up, she endured nearly 28 years of body image issues and disordered eating, ranging from anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphia.

As a cause close to her heart, Meg embarked on a lengthy process to ascertain how social media played a role in issues relating to body image.

“I have been researching social media apps for over three and a half years, looking into hashtags and algorithms and seeing how that space is evolving.”

Meg said her findings were concerning. 

“On these apps, I could search for things that I wanted … when I typed in certain words such as ‘skinny’, ‘thigh gap’ and ‘diet culture’, the algorithm would generate more of the same content on my feed,” she said.

“Every time I’d open TikTok, I would see a video of someone showing me how skinny their waist was, how to eat under 500 calories a day, how to hide food or what to do to starve for three days.

“In a mindset or state when you are possibly struggling with body image or unworthiness, that can be really damaging.”

Meg said that children from six to 17 years of age were being exposed to filters and edited content using apps such as Meitu, Facetune and Manly.

She said it resulted in those age groups becoming more inclined to digitally modify their own photos. 

“We’re consistently seeing people who have edited their body; they might have added a six pack, trimmed their waist, narrowed their thighs and smoothed their skin,” she said.

“All we’re seeing is perfection.

“As a society, we need to look at why we’re trying to change who we are, to fit an image that’s not even real.”

According to a 2021 study commissioned by online retailer Case24, 71 per cent of adults edit or alter photos before posting them online.

This is an increase from the 48 per cent of users who engaged in the practice in 2014. 

Meg said that state-wide, children’s mental health services were experiencing an increase in patients. 

“Mental health rates along with eating disorders, suicide and self-harm have risen so much in the past two years through the pandemic, and we’re seeing a lot more screen time,” she said.

A Sydney Morning Herald article states that more children used hospital mental health services in NSW after the first lockdown than in any other time in the past five years.”

Meg said the most dramatic rise had been in teenage girls aged 12 to 17, which saw mental health issues increase by 80 per cent.

The left photo shows the digital modification made possible by apps.

The worrying youth climate was among the reasons that motivated Meg to advocate for change. 

“What I’d like to see is authenticity,” she said.

“Social media is not bad; it’s how we use it and perceive it. That can make it a problem.”

As a body image coach, movement practitioner and personal trainer, Meg witnesses first-hand the impact digital media has on young Novocastrians.

“I have a lot of clients who have daughters or sons going through body image struggles -there are kids with eating disorders at the age of eight.”

Meg said concerned parents shouldn’t prevent access to the apps but instead be role models and promote body positivity to their kids.

“The best thing you can do as a parent is reflect on how we show up for ourselves,” she said.

“How do we talk to ourselves in the mirror?

“When we have gratitude for the authentic, real and imperfect version of ourselves, our kids will then have permission to do the same.”

Maia O’Connor

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