Body image is a very sensitive subject when it comes to how it is portrayed in the media and how it affects the lives of the people who witness it. With technological advancements and so many forms of media today, it is easy for unrealistic body standards to be portrayed. You might be shocked to hear that there is correlation between time spent on social media and negative body image (Fleps 2021). These technological advancements include programs and apps like Face tune and Photoshop that can be used to set up fake images and create a false idea of what normal body types look like. The main forms of media that demonstrate and also spread this kind of unrealistic body image are social media platforms. Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat are used to spread photos that give more people opportunity to edit themselves to make them appear more “polished” than they do in real life. More specifically, on social media, there are influencers and high-profile figures that can also set an unobtainable standard of beauty that young people look up to and compare themselves to.
Examples of this would be models or other celebrities who have photos of their bodies that have clearly been edited in some way, like Kate Winslet being edited to look extremely thin in GQ Magazine or the touching up of one’s facial features to appear “flawless” (Diller 2011). This could lead to someone using different apps to make themselves look skinnier on a casual Instagram post. No matter what the situation may be, these kinds of portrayals in media like magazines, commercials, movies and television, and social media create a false set of expectations for people of what they think their body should look like.
The real damaging part is when these young, easily influenced minds try to match what they see in the media. First of all, it can absolutely destroy one’s self-esteem if they are unable to reach that desired, yet unrealistic, body type that they are told is the standard of beauty. It can cause an abundance of insecurities and mental health issues in a lot of younger people who feel like they have no choice but to compare themselves to what they see in the media. Second of all, different eating disorders can be developed while trying to obtain said body types. Examples of these eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, stemming from body dysmorphia, and bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa can happen if someone looks in the mirror and thinks they are overweight, even if they are underweight, and they will refuse to eat or over-exercise to lose weight. Bulimia nervosa takes place when one excessively eats and purges or excessively fasts in order to gain control over their weight after eating (Dubois 2019). Both of these can be a direct result of seeing an unreasonably skinny person on social media and feeling pressured to look like that to be “pretty.”
This is definitely a media literacy concern because it is up to the media to promote the idea that you do not have to be skinny and flawless to be considered beauty.
There should not be one standard for all beauty. Even if it is not a blatant statement saying that “skinny is pretty,” it should be more indirectly encouraged that all body types should be admired and appreciated.
Becker, T. (2020, August 22). Body Dysmorphic Disorder | How to Recognize it and Treat It. Www.buoyhealth.com. https://www.buoyhealth.com/learn/body-dysmorphic-disorder
Diller, V. (2011, July 8). Is Photoshop Destroying America’s Body Image? HuffPost; HuffPost. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/photoshop-body-image_b_891095
Dubois, K. (2019, May 15). Self-Esteem and Media Influences on Body Image. Just Say YES. https://justsayyes.org/topics/self-image-media-influences/
Fleps, B. (2021, April 21). Social media effects on body image and eating disorders. News; Illinois State University. https://news.illinoisstate.edu/2021/04/social-media-effects-on-body-image-and-eating-disorders/
Happy 25th birthday, Adobe Photoshop! (n.d.). The Economic Times. Retrieved April 26, 2022, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/happy-25th-birthday-adobe-photoshop/articleshow/46393094.cms?from=mdr
Taylor Barone is a sophomore at Sacred Heart University. While she is unsure about what exact path she wants to take, Taylor is currently majoring in Strategic Communications, Public Relations, and Advertising, with minors in Honors and Digital Marketing. She is a member of the Sacred Heart University Dance Team, where she enjoys performing at football and basketball games, as well as annually competing with the team at a National Competition. Taylor enjoys spending time with her friends and family, as well as listening to music and going to the movies with her roommates. When not at school, Taylor lives at home on Long Island, New York with her Mom, Dad, twin sister, Samantha, and dog, Cody.