Social media is a great way to connect with our loved ones as well as the people we admire or look up to, it’s a platform where we can share our experiences and voice our opinions and give out ideas openly. But there is a dark side to it as well for body image, to counteract it’s necessary to have critical and thoughtful approach. There is different concern for different type of people who are affected by body image, such as being too small, being too large, not feminine enough in terms of curves, not manly enough in terms of muscles.
National Eating Disorder Association’s general statistics says that eating disorder affects all races and ethnic groups, 80% of the women are not satisfied with their appearance and around 45% of them diet whenever they like to. Insecurities and solutions to it are already formed from an early age. It is necessary to understand how media portray and influence body image. Nowadays, it’s so common that young girls can’t even go through a magazine without being thrown out to unrealistic photos of celebrities who apparently have the “perfect” body. They have almost unachievable waist sizes, flawless appearance, and silky hair – impossible to achieve for an average human being. This changes the way people look at themselves and also has some effects on mental health such as depression.
To resolve, many of them turn to dieting which can slowly stride to pathological dieting (Unhealthy food/calorie restriction), so that they can achieve the ideal body which is set by our culture. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness (South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 2006). There is one culprit behind this disease which is a low self-esteem, and the cause is the damaging media exposure.
Platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook allows young people to gain recognition and approval for their outlook and to compare oneself to other. Most vulnerable of them all are the ones who are frequently on social media commenting, posting and comparing oneself to the photos a lot. Those female college students who spend a lot of their time on Facebook often link their self-worth to their looks (Stefanone, Lackaff and Rosen, 2011)
Social media can be noxious for body image. As it’s very interactive and extremely visual and appearance is definitely the main thing to success. Having a lot of “likes” and “followers” marks that it’s an achievement and that you are popular, this makes them feel confident and gives them sense of self-worth. People often strive to present themselves in the best version of themselves by adding filters and editing their selfies, or taking many selfies and posting the best one out of all, takes too much tension on how people are going to react. This definitely shows some body image concerns.
According to my comparative analysis, it’s not only celebrities who are bombarding glorifying images of perfect humans, it’s also your friends posting pictures of themselves for the whole world to see and comment on. Body image is a complex phenomenon influenced by many factors like peers, parents and social contexts. Why are young people turning to social media for body image verification? In adolescence, peer validation and self-recognition are at the peak point, and social media is a quick place where the answers are provided to satisfy both of the concerns. No one exactly knows except the person itself on how all the judgement and comments affect the young people’s body image.
Although body image concerns can be caused by the hectic environment of the social media, not all of the people are influenced in this way. According to McLean, Paxton and Wertheim’s recent research, it shows that young girls who applies critical approach on how they view “idealized” body images in the media are secured from any negative effect on their own body image. This approach on understanding media is called “media literacy”, when you have achieved this literacy you will question the media image if its reasonable or not, weather it’s manipulated to gain something in return, and the ability to assess what is the cause behind the way an image is presented.
Social media literacy includes understanding how celebrities, friends and peers use social media, it’s an understanding that people select the best image and modify it to present it to the whole world. It’s less likely to compare yourself with another once you know how social media works.
To have a positive effect on body image, social media literacy should be enhanced through school programs or some online campaigns. Issues related to the body and media may be a problem for most of the people but it might be serious for children. Adults are wise enough to know what’s right and wrong and can easily recognize that the media is often unrealistic. It’s it a responsibility on teachers and parents to pay attention on this issue which comes from harmful media exposure and to look for solutions to any of the consequences. The media can cause negative effect on children development and can be bad for their mental health. Of course, it not easy to change everything, therefore parental behaviours and family values are going to play an important role in growing the child. It never hurts to tell your child that they are more than their appearance. Adults should figure out ways to equip media power for future usage and to educate the coming generations.
Eating Disorder Statistics. (2018). National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Available at: http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/
McLean, S., Paxton, S. and Wertheim, E. (2016). Does Media Literacy Mitigate Risk for Reduced Body Satisfaction Following Exposure to Thin-Ideal Media?. 8th ed. [ebook] pp.1678-1695. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10964-016-0440-3
South Carolina Department of Mental Health. (2006). Eating Disorder Statistics. [online] Available at: http://www.state.sc.us/dmh/anorexia/statistics.htm
Stefanone, M., Lackaff, D. and Rosen, D. (2011). Contingencies of Self-Worth and Social-Networking-Site Behavior. [ebook] Available at: http://www.buffalo.edu/content/dam/cas/communication/files/Stefanone/Stefanone_cyberpsych.2011.pdf