By Emma Safran.
According to DoSomething.com, 91% of women are unhappy with their body. They feel that they do not live up to the impossible standards that the media says are what make a woman beautiful.
Instagram is drowning in girls with tiny, toned stomachs, and #thighgaps. This may be a reason why the National Institute of Mental Health reports 50% of teenage girls and 30% of teenage boys doing dangerous things such as skipping meals, taking diet pills or laxatives, or smoking cigarettes to lose weight.
Mirror Mirror.org, an organization that promotes healthy living and body image, reports the body type most commonly pushed in social media is to be “blonde, tan and have big breasts. Of course, she should be young and somewhat athletic. She should not have any physical disabilities. It doesn’t matter too much if she is smart, as long as she is physically attractive.”
For many, this body type is unachievable naturally, so many resort to more extreme routes, such as surgery. The MPs’ report said “pressure to look good had pushed up cosmetic surgery rates by nearly 20% since 2008.” Coincidentally, this is around the time when social media popularity surged.
In 2016, it seems as though everyone has a cell phone glued to his or her sides. Americans cannot help but check it every 5 minutes for the latest social update. Facebook has changed its algorithm so there are more ads and less news about “friends”. It has become increasingly hard to avoid the constant stream of social media’s depiction of “beauty”.
Instagram is also often used as an advertising platform. According to a demographics chart by Statisa, 37% of their 200 million users are 16-29, and brands have been using the app accordingly. Popular brands for this age group, such as Triangl, Brandy Melville, and Forever 21, have ultra- thin girls in bikinis and daisy dukes plastered over their photos. It has become very difficult for viewers not to compare their bodies with those in the photos.
Ramsey Griffith, a junior at the University of Alabama, says she finds it hard to feel beautiful with social media. “Body image is something I’ve struggled with since I was young, in a media-heavy society, I feel that it would be hard not to struggle with body image…The root of insecurity is comparison,” she said.
In a research study done by Florida State University, a group of women were told to browse Facebook for 20 minutes, and another group was asked to research rainforest cats online. After the 20 minutes, the women who went on Facebook had greater body dissatisfaction than those who spent 20 minutes researching rainforest cats online.
“Keep it Real” Campaign conducted a study in which it was found that 80 percent of 10-year-old American girls have been on a diet.
Many people are trying to make Instagram a more truly beautiful place by posting photos showing their “real life”, unedited snapshots to break down the barriers of unrealistic beauty standards. One of these people is former Sharon High School student Kim Chook, who created an Instagram, “Balanced_Beaming” filled with pictures of her working out, healthy food, inspirational quotes, the perfect recipe for a healthy life.
“I wanted to create a space online that combats those negative influences,” said Chook.
“ I share my own, real experiences– the good and the bad– and try to promote self love and balance. I wanted to show women that health encompasses so much more than what you put into your body, or the size of your thighs or waist,” says Chook.
She agrees that media can alter the way one thinks of her, “The media definitely stimulates body insecurity, because the image of beauty that is projected in the media follows such a narrow standard. For women, you have to be thin, tall, tan, have long hair, and perfect skin,” she said.
Chook also notes that social media alters the images so the “beauty” that is depicted is not only fake, but also unrealistic for many. “Even the actresses and models themselves don’t possess all those perfect features. I really think Photoshop alone is responsible for so many people’s low self-esteem,” Chook said.
“When nearly every media image representing ‘beautiful,’ ‘sexy,’ ‘desirable,’ ‘attractive’ follows that unattainable standard, and when that standard doesn’t match your own features, you’re bound to feel insecure about yourself,” she added.
The Boston College sophomore says she has only received positive comments on her photos, and from that has learned to love her body more.
Additionally, another famous Instagrammer, Essena O Neill has “come out” with the truth behind her photos. O’Neill had over 1 million followers, and one day she changed all of the captions on her pictures to depict the real story that goes into taking one of her photos. The tall blonde edited the caption of her in a skintight dress.
“This photo would have taken at least 30 minutes of shooting to find the right white background, to check my posing, to yell some more at my sister for not ‘doing it how I wanted’. The whole process of photo-taking back then was for one purpose: to get likes,” she said
Her message to followers is that nothing she posts is her real life. Normally, she is covered in acne and sweatpants, but she only uploads photos where she looks perfect, furthering the desire for perfection. But recently she quit using social media: “It just wasn’t for me. Have you ever looked yourself in the mirror and then to your horror can’t recognize, let alone even respect, the person staring back? That happened to me. Big time. And boy am I grateful.”
She goes on to say that she doesn’t want others to be inspired by her pictures, calling her life their “goal”, because the world that she invites her viewers to see is not her real life.
National Eating Disorders Association says there is definitely a connection between body image and social media. “Research is increasingly clear that media does indeed contribute and that exposure to and pressure exerted by media increase body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.”
With every photo or advertisement that is posted on social media, the pressure to look a certain way only grows stronger. Social media is a great thing for networking, but is also very destructive to one’s body image.