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Users may use social media to communicate, exchange views, and discuss their thoughts and concerns with people all over the world. When it comes to body image, however, social media is a major contributor to body dissatisfaction issues, especially among women. Social media provides an atmosphere that encourages disordered attitudes and emotions, which have a negative impact on an individual's self-image. According to Dittmar, people who have body image issues such as being too short, too big, or not curvy enough often feel worried and upset, which impacts their overall success and self-esteem. The various social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat hand over the gadgets that allow users to gain acquiescence for their appearance as well as compare themselves with others. The rapid aging down of smart phone and computer ownership has made it possible for teenagers to the most active users of social media thus the most vulnerable to body dissatisfaction issues.
According to López-Guimerà et al 390, females are the most affected by body dissatisfaction issues that results from social media. The “thin ideal” image that’s portrayed by the magazines, television and visual social medial platforms greatly cause body image disturbance among teens. The “thin ideal” image act a major drive for thinness through dieting for females while masculinity strategies in males. The number of likes and feedbacks one gets from a post subconsciously affects one’s self perception and self-appreciation. Most teenagers rate their body images with the number of likes, followers and social media friends and work towards outdoing others who they perceive as competitors. Fardouly and Vartanian state that self-objectification, that is, feeling unhappy after comparing oneself with others from social media, could predict mental problems such as disordered eating and depression.
Technology has made it possible for selfie-holics to alter their bodies and complexions in a way that they end up attaining a flawless image of themselves. The array of free applications has enabled teens to cover up pimples, enlarge eyelashes with the swipe of finger, crafting their images to become prettier and flawless.
According to Dittmar 1, the social media can be unhealthy when it impacts on the body image environment. Social media provides users with a platform where they can present themselves and get appreciated by their peers and followers. Therefore, most people labor towards capturing the best and most attractive self with the hope of acquiring the most likes and feedbacks. It’s unfortunate that most of the teenagers in this generation have become slaves of social media in such a way that they only believe in whatever social media provides. They barely know how to make decisions on their own and extensively rely on their followers and peers opinion.
Self- appreciation is a very important factor in moulding positive body image development. However the problem arises when individuals begin to compare themselves with others. According to Bergstorm et al264 the most vulnerable social media users are those that Magazines, books, websites, social media platforms like Instagram, as well as YouTube channels are constantly blamed for depicting an ideal definition of a perfect body image. They corrupt teen’s body image by constraining a “thin ideal.” This can be perceived as the origin of body image development concerns. Individuals develop attitudes towards the way they look, lose confidence in themselves and to an extent develop low self-esteem. Additionally, studies have illustrated that the mainstream media including television, movies, advertising and magazines, contain idealized, stereotypical, and unrealistic portrayals of body categories (Andsager 22). Because young individuals are no longer passive consumers of the media, they create and share messages about body appearance.
Bergstorm et al 264 argues that social media impacts on body image is mainly cause by the behavior of individuals comparing themselves with thin models and celebrities in the media. The Hollywood has made this possible as most of the Hollywood red carpet celebrities portray the “thin ideal” image. In other worlds, social media only show the best side of celebrities
(Knobloch-Westerwick and Romero 27). Social media creates a flawless perception of these celebrities whereby the ladies have perfect “thin ideal” bodies while men are well built and masculine.
Research has proved that the most vulnerable individuals to body dissatisfaction are the big-bodied teenagers who end up having low self-esteems and lose confidence in themselves (Fardouly and Vartanian 3). These individuals are generally photophobic as they are afraid to being cyberbullied by their peers and rarely post their photographs on any social media. The social media further affect the self-appreciation and self-esteem of big-bodied individuals by preferring “thin ideal” ladies to advertise trendy and new fashion clothes on magazines and television. Majority of the models on the runway are the “thin ideal” individuals which is a clear indication that social media lead to body dissatisfaction effects on big-bodied persons.
The extent to which social media influences the body image of males and females differs. In most cases, the level of dissatisfaction is higher on females than on males. In females, body dissatisfaction mainly focuses on weight and shape whereby they desire to emulate the “thin ideal” body image (Van den Berg et al 259). Further issues may be associated with body features such as breast and hips which trigger them to undergo hips or breast surgeries to attain the desired size and shapes. According to Grabe et al 466, approximately 43% of girls are extremely concerned about their body image while 19% of boys are very concerned about their body image.
Social media affects body image perceptions of individuals from a tender age. As children are growing, the cartoon programs available for them are highly associated with the “thin ideal” for girls and the “muscularity ideal” for boys. Most children favorite cartoon characters are those that portray these features which influences how they which to look like when they grow up. For instance, the body features given to ‘Batman’ or ‘Superman’ in cartoons and toys highly emphasizes on masculinity while the body feature for ‘Barbie’ or ‘Sofia the First’ are those of a skinny flawless girl.
Social media pressures teenage girls and young women to strive towards attaining the “thin ideal” body image which as a result raises concerns over disorderly eating behaviors among them. According to research studies, women and girls who have the habit of reviewing magazines and scrolling their smartphones to view other people posts are more vulnerable to body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem (Grabe et al 461). In most cases, women tend to think that others look better than them on social media. Most girls and women feel intimidated by how celebrities maintain their flawless image on social media and how they look good in whatever they put on. This makes girls and women forget their worth and feel lousy about their self- appearance. Research argue that women tend to be in their worst mood after comparing themselves on social media relative to other comparison (Bergstorm et al 264). Further women and girls are addicted to the various application that allow them to add filters on their pictures to make them appear much more appealing and hotter.
Research have proved that the number of cosmetic surgeries on women is gradually increasing for the past five years (López-Guimerà et al 390). Women are enlarging or reshaping their lips, nose or even breasts so that they can gain social media attention as well as save themselves from depression associated with body dissatisfaction. Hence, media literacy is could be used to teach girls and women on how to be media activists and critical observers to prevent the development of body dissatisfaction as well as eating disorders. Further women are highly vulnerable to becoming weight stereotypes which affects their appearance conversations whereby they adapt to “fat talk” as well as weigh change behaviors such as dieting.
Hence, social media provides a platform for individuals to advise and give tips to individuals who are interested in attaining the ideal body size and shapes. Various articles, books, journals and blogs are published on a daily basis that are provide information related to ways of achieving an ideal body size and shape, the appropriate exercise to do as well as dieting techniques. Further, fashion trend setters take advantage of social media by providing tutorials on how to dress fashionably as well as makeup tutorials.
In men, body disparities mainly focus on muscularity, height and to some extent beards. Most men perceive visual media such as Instagram and Snapchat to be girly and are more interested in cars racing or other sport activities. However, most male teenagers are active in the social media websites and are also affected by the “muscularity ideal” image portrayed by the media (Hargreaves and Tiggemann 109). The skinny men are the most vulnerable to body dissatisfaction issues especially low self- esteem. Social media demonstrate high regards to masculine men as compared to skinny men which affects the general perceptions that women have on defining an ideal man. Men who become obsessed with acquiring masculinity end up hitting the gym or start using steroids to fasten the process.
Despite the many arguments on how social media negatively impacts on body image, there’s one major contrary perception on the same issue. Fardouly and Vartanian argue that most teens are media-literate about the information and images displayed in magazines or movies. They can easily identify filtered or altered images by simply looking at them. They are also aware of how technology has provided individuals with the ability of making their worst images look perfect as well as photo shopping images. Becoming a media activist also helps minimize the body disparities issues that people face.
Some individuals access social media websites with very different motives. There are those who access the media so that they can update themselves with the trending fashions, joints or places. This barely affects their body image as they are not involved in comparing themselves with others. Social media should not be wholly blamed for causing body image and body dissatisfaction issues among teenagers since it also portrays positive influences on them. On the brighter side of social media, it helps develop awareness among teenagers especially social and political awareness. It gives teenagers the opportunity to polish their social skills, help in developing their reading and writing skills as well as inspiring them through giving them the opportunity to look up to their favorite celebrities.
In conclusion, body dissatisfaction is a major contributors to low self-esteem, onset eating disorders such as anorexia and nervosa, weight loss or weight gain and to some extreme it leads to depression. Social media provides a platform for users to connect, share experiences, express their ideas and concerns with other people all over the world. The rapid aging down of smart phone and computer ownership has made it possible for teenagers to the most active users of social media thus the most vulnerable to body dissatisfaction issues.
According to Bergstorm et al 264, the extent of comparisons vary in a way that those who frequently compare themselves with others tend to feel worse about their body thus affecting their self-esteem. Andsager states that there are two categories of body image, that is, cognitive and behavioral. The cognitive category is associated with beliefs thoughts while behavioral is associated with the socio stereotypes in relation to appearance. Further, the array of free applications has enabled teens to cover up pimples, enlarge eyelashes with the swipe of finger, crafting their images to become prettier and flawless. Social media creates a flawless perception of these celebrities whereby the ladies have perfect “thin ideal” bodies while men are well built and masculine.
Developing media literacy, minimizing comparison with social media, and becoming a media activist are some of the many remedies for minimizing on effects associated with social media effects on body image (Fardouly, J. and Vartanian 2). It is important for parents to get involved in advising and motivating their children to value themselves and on how to handle body dissatisfaction issues related to social media.
Andsager, Julie L. “Research Directions in Social Media And Body Image.” Sex Roles,
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