Body Image and how media affects it.


Amelia Southern

Sophomore Isabelle Sutle scrolls through her Instagram feed and pauses to look at a beautiful model.

Amelia Southern, Photographer

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” A familiar phrase to all, it is a famous line from the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” In the story, the queen asks the mirror daily whether she is the most beautiful person in the kingdom by saying this line. From this story, we can see that people are constantly aware and conscious about their appearance and want to look the best. We are living in a world where modern technology like mobile phones, television, and the internet occupy our daily lives, and from these technologies, we are able to access to the media anytime and constantly be bombarded by the idea of perfectionism. Even though lack of self-esteem has always been a problem, adolescent — children should not be exposed to “Perfectionism” because it promotes an idealistic body that is unachievable.

   “iGen is on the verge of the most severe mental health crisis for young people in decades. On the surface, though, everything is fine.” from  The book iGen by Dr. Jean M. Twenge. That verge is here and adolescent-children are obsessively and almost desperately trying to change their appearance. For example, a ninth-grader was interviewed by Star-Phoenix, “Adolescents and teens are influenced by society’s expectations of beauty more than any other age group because they worry a lot about people criticizing the way they look… At the same time, they’re going through changes like getting acne and growing, which makes them more insecure about the way they look. These ideals are brainwashed into everyone’s minds; it begins with someone judging another person, or someone judging themselves. This unnecessary criticism of one another’s bodies often leads to people developing eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia, mental illnesses like depression, and low self-esteem.”  According to studies, women, and girls specifically, we see a demand for thin women with big breasts and little tolerance for overweight women. She continues to talk about how even she fell into this perfectionism trap, “At a very young age, I was taught that being beautiful was to have light skin, a slim body, and long, dark hair. These were the features that every female model had, so I dreamed of having skin that matched a model’s tone, a body without a single roll, and hair that touched the floor… Looking through magazines and watching movies made me feel a little insecure, and sometimes I would hate the way I looked… Though I didn’t know what being insecure meant, I knew these images gave me the urge to physically change myself.” The effects of “perfectionism” are long-lasting and difficult to deal with, for example, perfectionism can lead to anxiety and depression.  

Many people assume or may think that the lack of self-esteem has always been an issue and social media does not affect adolescent children’s self-esteem. However, nationwide we see an epidemic spike in the number and frequency of teens being diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression, along with terrifying trends in self-harm, eating disorders, bullying, and suicide.  “When I started the study, I wouldn’t have thought so many boys and girls might be unhappy about their bodies at such a young age,” said Nadia Micali, based at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London — the research arm of Great Ormond Street Hospital–and the Icahn medical school at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Ten years ago the typical patient day for a pediatrician was “flu, cold, vaccination, fever, cold, fever.” Today, a pediatrician’s average day might be “Suicide attempt, suicide attempt, depression, anxiety, cutting, eating disorder, suicide attempt.” Even the number of men seeking treatment for eating disorders saw a 70% spike between 2010 and 2016. 2010 is the year the first smartphone came out. All caused by the need, the expectation to be perfectly portrayed in media by Photoshopped advertisements and surgically enhanced celebrities.

Depression and anxiety have also increased with digital and social culture bent on perfectionism and idealism. Many children will continue to feel disgusting as idealism bombards their phones with edited images to reach the unachievable norm of perfect. This leaves us with the question has social media destroyed our children and livelihoods or have our livelihoods and children destroyed social media?

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