Viral Hashtags That Were Disastrous For Body Image

February 10th 2016

Viral hashtags can bring people together in a positive way. For example the hashtag #bodypositive, has brought people from the body positive movement together to promote realistic, healthy body standards on social media.

Just as hashtags can promote positivity, when viral hashtags center on extreme tests that challenge your appearance or body shape, they can create insecurities in young people. Here are some examples of social media challenges that are potentially harmful and can have a negative effect on body image.

1. The #UnderboobChallenge

Late last month, #Underboob and several variations of it (#UnderboobChallenge and #CarryPenUnderBreast) were trending, asking women to test whether they could successfully hold a pen beneath their breasts:

The "pen/pencil test" has been around for a long time. The online version of it made some women feel bad that they couldn't participate because of the size of their breasts. Many have called the challenge a step back for women because it places a premium on larger breast size:

We already have a culture of small boob shaming, which is responsible in part for the high number of women getting breast augmentations every year. This hashtag doesn't help.

2. The #CollarboneChallenge

Last summer, the #CollarboneChallenge went viral on China's social media platform Weibo. Soon, people all over the world joined in on the trend. The hashtag challenges people to place coins on their collarbones. If they remain in place, it means the participant is appropriately skinny.

Sina News, a Chinese-language site, said that a person is "skinny and sexy" if he or she can complete the challenge, ABC News reported.

But the challenge is harmful, according to Claire Mysko, program director for the National Eating Disorders Association, who criticized the hashtag when it took off on social media last year.

“This social media challenge is dangerous because it stokes comparison and fuels insecurity, especially for people who struggle with disordered eating and poor body image," Mysko told ABC News. "NEDA promotes social media challenges that promote body positivity and encourage self-acceptance.”

3. The #KylieJennerLipChallenge

This hashtag went viral last year after many people remarked that Jenner seemed to have fuller lips than in the past. The #KylieJennerLipChallenge asks users to put their lips in a small glass or bottle and suck as hard as possible to temporarily give their lips a fuller appearance.

Not only does this challenge promote insecurities about one's lip size, it is also dangerous. Several news outlets reported last year that the trend caused bruising and injuries to some users.

The challenge is akin to "punching yourself in the face," Scot Glasberg, an executive with the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, told FoxNews.com last year.

“You’re creating an injury to your lips; that’s why they swell,” he said. “It’s like punching yourself in the face or running your face into the wall. The whole thing is just pretty silly and irresponsible."

4. The #BellyButtonChallenge

Before the #CollarboneChallenge, there was the #BellybuttonChallenge, which also reportedly started on Weibo, according to ABC News. To participate, one has to reach his or her arm around the back and touch the belly button:

It's unclear whether people who successfully complete the #BellybuttonChallenge have unusually flexible arms or tiny waists. But critics argue that the challenge asks users to distort their bodies in a potentially harmful way. It also makes people feel insufficiently skinny if they can't complete it.

"It's concerning people are using body differences to promote possibly unhealthy eating practices or ways in which people can compare themselves negatively to others, which has been linked to depressive symptoms," pediatric psychologist Carolyn Ievers-Landis told ABC News of the trend. "It's one more indicator of 'I'm not good enough,' 'attractive enough,' or 'thin enough,' and it's harmful."

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