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UK Animated Video Aims To Help People With Eating Disorders Safely Navigate Social Media

Researchers from Loughborough University in the UK have teamed up with UK Eating Disorder charity Beat to create an animated video that explores how social media affects people with an Eating Disorder.

The short film looks at how social media can be both harmful and helpful, and provides useful advice for those being negatively affected by what they see online and to support recovery.

The video is based on research by Loughborough University’s Dr Paula Saukko in collaboration with Dr Val Mitchell, and Dr Helen Malson, of Eating Disorders Health Integration Team in Bristol, UK. After interviewing 31 people with diverse Eating Disorders during the pandemic – a period that has seen a surge in both social media use and mental health issues – the team then worked with Beat to translate the research findings into a video.

The video gives top tips on how to keep boundaries on social media by unfollowing content on diets, or content that fuel negative thoughts and moderating consumption and interaction with friends by muting or switching off when feeling overwhelmed.

Dr Saukko explains:

“Using the easy multi-media possibilities of social media to chat is vital for keeping in touch and receiving support when not feeling well, especially since Eating Disorders are often socially isolating.

“However, social media encourages users to compare themselves to others in terms of looks or success and foments constant engagement, replies, and insecurities when others are not responding or reacting.”

Colette Mullings, Head of Marketing at Beat, said:

“Social media has been both a help and hindrance for those we support: we know that irresponsible content can be very damaging for those unwell or vulnerable to Eating Disorders, but at the same time we often hear of people benefiting from supportive recovery communities, especially during the pandemic.

“We are eagerly awaiting the results, and hope that the video gives viewers encouragement to continue engaging with positive communities, but also to switch off when needed.”

Dr Saukko’s team, together with Beat, will evaluate the impact of the video in terms of engagement and experience of users.

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