Glow-ups are over-celebrated and harmful to mental health


Eliana Mann

HARMFUL POSTS. The rising trend of sharing one’s glow-ups on social media is not as empowering as it seems.

The term “glow-up” has risen to prominence in popular culture in recent years, with a simple Google search of the phrase quickly yielding over two billion results. A glow-up is a transformation for the better (usually in regards to physical appearance), and perhaps it sounds like an empowering expression used to lift others up. In reality, though, this popular social media trend is extremely harmful to those who create and consume it.

While the intent of showing a glow-up on TikTok or Instagram accounts is often to celebrate one’s own achievements and build confidence, these posts can encourage unhealthy comparisons and perpetuate beauty standards. There is not one correct appearance that everyone should be striving for, but that is frequently the message conveyed because glow-ups are displayed as an end result: the “after” of a before-and-after. Those who have “glowed up” are slim, have clear skin and shining hair, and so on, but not everyone can actually fit this mold.

Additionally, sharing glow-ups online can have mental health consequences. According to McLean Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, “[social media] platforms are designed to be addictive and are associated with anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments.” Social media, in general, can always have negative health effects, and this especially pertains to younger generations, as 86% of 18- to 29-year-olds use social media.

What about with glow-ups specifically? The added layer of comparing and contrasting often unrealistic physical appearances as a part of this trend can be detrimental. A submission to the National Eating Disorders Association reads: “When I look at other people’s photo albums, the comparing is automatic. I end up feeling like crap.” This can lead to serious body image issues and other struggles.

Despite its good intentions, the glow-up trend has led to many problems. The truth is that beauty comes in all forms, and what should be celebrated is the uniqueness of each and every person. Physical appearance is consistently viewed as more important than personality or other internal aspects of who someone is, but going forward, everyone should work to change this narrative. Be mindful of spending too much time on social media to prioritize wellbeing. Don’t judge others based on appearance. Practice self-love. Creating a space for everyone to feel valued is a significant step in the right direction.