Muscle dysmorphia: Men are also struggling with unrealistic beauty standards


Research highlights a link between photo filter use and muscle dysmorphia among teens and young adults. Photo: AFP

On social networks, videos of sports coaches and fitness influencers are flooding news feeds on TikTok and Instagram, promoting a muscly and toned physique.

The famous "beauty" filters, which have already caused a stir, are once again the focus of controversy. But this time, it's about their effect on young men.

Using filters on social networks such as TikTok, Instagram and even Snapchat could exacerbate muscle dysmorphia in young, growing adolescents, according to research conducted by the University of Toronto on 912 Canadian teenagers and young adults.

According to the study, boys were more affected by this phenomenon than girls, who experienced other forms of dysmorphia linked to social media photo filters.

Read more: Six-pack abs, nice skin, full head of hair? How men fret about their looks too

"Muscle dysmorphia symptomatology is more common among boys and men, including over 25 % of boys and young men in a Canadian community sample displaying clinically relevant symptoms," the study reads.

Professionals consider muscular dysmorphia to be a mental disorder.

Affected individuals are excessively preoccupied with their appearance, dwelling on their muscular build, which they either wish to be "perfect" or deem inadequate. These unattainable expectations can be fueled by unrealistic manipulated photos on social platforms.

The effects of photo manipulation

The researchers who worked on this study point to edited and touched-up images and other content on social networks as contributing to this situation.

Filters on social networks create unrealistic expectations of physical appearance, which can have a detrimental effect on young men's mental health.

According to study lead author, Kyle T Ganson, it was clear that frequent use of photo filters is associated with higher levels of muscle dissatisfaction and overall muscle dysmorphia symptoms.

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The researchers also noted gender differences in the effects of using photo filters.

Boys and men who used photo filters showed "greater drive to increase their muscularity and social and occupational functioning challenges" compared to the girls and women in the study.

"Our study sheds light on the often-overlooked impact of photo filter use on muscle dysmorphia, especially among boys and men. As digital image manipulation becomes more advanced and widespread, it is essential to understand and mitigate its potential harm on body image and mental health," concludes Ganson, quoted in a news release.

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