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Fearing exposure in social media

The Paradox of Needing to be Seen and Fearing Exposure in Social Media: The role of shame, commodification of the body and their clinical implications – with Christiane Sanderson

This event was held online on Saturday 23rd September 2023

This training examined how the use of social media has become a powerful substitute for the reflection and mirroring of the primary caregiver to validate our way of being and to seek approval from others. It is also an opportunity to curate our lives in sharing aspects of ourselves that we value and allow us to have a sense of belongingness. However, in sharing aspects of our lives there is an increased risk of exposure and intense scrutiny by others which renders social media a potent instrument for social comparison, and thus a source of shame which can compromise physical and mental well-being.

Such scrutiny can lead to exposure to shame especially for those who do not fit into social norms regarding appearance, status or lifestyle. The fear of being found to be ‘less than’ or lacking in some way has led to a need to control what we reveal about ourselves so that any sources of shame can be hidden. Common examples of this are curating and editing profiles, and airbrushing or filtering photographs to only ever reveal what is deemed to be socially desirable. In addition, social media can also hijack the sense of body ownership by commodifying the body as an object for commercial gain. This can lead to body dissatisfaction, body dysmorphia, eating disorders, extreme dieting and exercise, and body modification through cosmetic surgery.

The fear of being shamed for not fitting in or not being perfect enough can have severe consequences on mental health such as:

  • social anxiety
  • social exclusion or isolation
  • failure to live up to expectation of others
  • loneliness
  • extreme body modification
  • depression and increased risk of suicide
  • self-objectification, self-disgust and lack of embodimentDelegates will learn about:
    • the impact of social media on shame-based anxieties
    • the manifestations in the therapy room such as the scrutiny of the therapist’s gaze
    • how to work therapeutically with the symptoms of shame as outlined above
    • how to help clients reclaim their body as their own through embodiment and by developing an internal locus ofevaluation, rather than relying on external validation.

Christiane Sanderson BSc MSc is a retired senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Roehampton. With 35years’ experience working in child sexual abuse, sexual violence, domestic abuse and complex trauma, she has run consultancy and training for parents, teachers, social workers, nurses, therapists, counsellors, solicitors, the Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Committee, the Methodist Church, the Metropolitan Police Service, the NSPCC and the Refugee Council. She is the author of many books on trauma, shame, childhood sexual abuse, and dissociation,including Counselling Skills for Working with Trauma (JKP 2013).


Average feedback scores from our event:

Organisation of event: 4.5 out of 5

Speaker: 4.6 out of 5


Feedback from our event:

I liked the opportunity to hear questions and open discussion. It makes it very informative and interesting. Very knowledgeable speaker and with real experience

“The opportunity to have discussion / ask questions / share, rather than being talked at, and the way in which the material was contextualised e.g. linking to theory on addictions, specific vulnerable groups was particularly helpful. Lots of other CPD avenues lead off this including deeper exploration of neurodiversity and gender identity. Chrissie always draws on research and evidence, combined this with practical ‘how to’ help” – Sue Seager

“Very thought provoking. Christiane engaged empathetically and I especially appreciated how she encouraged questions and ‘thinking about’ collaboratively.” – Merri Mayers

“Very articulate speaker and well laid out and explained.” – Sophie Graham

“Really helpful in contextualising media use as addiction and seeing it as self regulation.” – Kate Treadaway

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