Staff Writers: Saranya Mandapaty and Yasmeen London

Opinion Editor: Anusha Bapat

Schools across the nation shutting down, one by one, like a game of dominoes gone awry. Utter isolation, forced to sit alone with your thoughts for hours on end. The definition of “normal” being reevaluated for the first time in thousands of young lives, and yet, to teenagers, the scariest sight they’ve faced in the past two years is a mirror. 

The National Eating Disorders Association Helpline has reported a 40% rise in overall call volume since March of 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic, the root of the problem. That statistic is out of people who have made the decision to ask for help. However, there are thousands of young voices who have been struggling in silence since the beginning of the pandemic, which begs the question- What happened? What happened to teens over the pandemic that created this drastic increase in eating disorders/body dysmorphia? It all leads back to the root of many adolescence issues, social media. 

Over quarantine, social media pushed the idea that given the new amount of free time you had, you needed to be productive, taking up new hobbies, learning new languages, getting A’s in online school. While initially this seems positive, encouraging childrento work hard in school, or to clean up after themselves, the meaning of ‘productivity’ soon changed horrifically. 

Tiktok was indefinitely one of the main sources of influence on teenagers to workout. In late March, fitness/wellness influencer, Chloe Ting, produced short, quick, grueling workouts that caught the attention of teens. Many idolized this workout and claimed that the results showed up almost immediately. Chloe Ting’s hit video: “Get Abs in 2 WEEKS” had accumulated over 400 million views;  More than President Biden’s inauguration, the pilot episode of friends, the population of the USA, and Olivia Rodrigo’s hit pop single, “Drivers License.” This video was seen as “perfect” because of the two weeks it takes to receive results matching up with the original amount of time we were destined to quarantine for. This was seen as the perfect opportunity to become fit before students had to return to school. However, as quarantine got extended, so did the increased obsession with workout and diet culture. In fact, 76% of North students have  done video-workouts over quarantine, and 86% percent of them have social media. Those 76% of people that did the video-workouts over quarantine have probably been influenced by the social media apps they’ve been endorsing for the majority of quarantine, knowing that social media heavily advertised these workouts. The combined rise in popularity in Youtube workouts and low-calorie food recipes created are what we address today as the ‘Glow-Up Syndrome’ the idea that, by the time quarantine is over, one must alter and improve their appearance drastically. However, in a time when it’s hard to find enough motivation to even get out of bed, its tough to find enough to alter your entire physical appearance. But once one finds that motivation, it resembles a drug, slowly morphing motivation into addictive obsession. 

Not only that, but the pandemic had created instability in thousands of teenagers’ lives, including ours, and their stability was unfortunately tied with the perception of their body images. After hours of being stuck in a house with minimal physical activity, it is nearly impossible to remain at the same athletic mobility as we were pre-pandemic. This drove millions to go to extreme lengths to preserve their weight. Hours of workouts a day in the name of fitness, starving themselves and disguising it as a “Calorie Deficit,” children as young as 10 years old counting the number of calories they consume in a day. According to medical analysis from 80 hospitals, there has been a 25% increase in the number of adolescent eating disorder patients since March of 2020. 

We can confirm as two teenagers heavily impacted by ‘The Glow-Up Syndrome’  that by watching those around us begin to workout excessively, we were pressured to do the same. It was only once we came to the shocking realization that we weren’t being pressured by others, but by ourselves, that we made the initiative to change, to seek out help.  Social media has had a big play in teenager’s mental health’s during the pandemic, and after the recent whistleblower incident with META, we now have proof that social media targets teenagers and will do anything they can to keep you on the app. Even if it means endorsing extreme workout and diet culture. 

The rise in diet and workout culture comes from heightened anxiety, the impact of social media, and instability in the everyday life of a teenager. Coming out of an eating disorder, recovering, is one of the hardest things a person could go through. Regardless, it is possible, and if you are one of the many individuals who were impacted by ‘The Glow-Up Syndrome,’ know that you are not alone. ‘The Glow-Up Syndrome’ is yet another virus that has plagued our world in the past two years, but we as a society, are coming together to find a cure. 

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