Body Image and Social Media – Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The society we live in today is heavily influenced by social media, news reporting and advertising, all of which weigh heavily into the discussion around the influence of the media on body image. Magazines who remove all flaws via airbrush, social media idealism and the modern celebrity are just some of the examples of the unrealistic and unattainable precedent set for the general public to attempt to follow. More often than not this leads to a distorted perception of what the body should look like and ultimately lead to negative body image. 

The unrealistic images seen on social media and in advertising, particularly those for the beauty and fashion industry, can make the viewer become overly conscious of their own body shape and weight.  

It is not just within the industries of fashion and beauty where these physical ideals are delivered, unfiltered to the viewer. Where a decade ago, you would have to purchase a magazine to look at fashion and editorial style photography, the rise of applications such as Instagram means that these sorts of images are available at all times.

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It is clear that users, particularly young and impressionable adults are absorbing social media in large quantities. The most troubling part about this is the lack of filter between those images and that group. Images posted to social media websites may have been extensively edited to make the body look thinner, enhance certain elements, all of which have not been achieved naturally. Editing apps such as Photoshop can allow users to cover up blemishes, remove imperfections from their face and remove cellulite from their bodies and then be posted to millions of viewers without review or consequence.

What compounds this even further, is the unfortunate fact that the use of editing apps has been abused by celebrities and social media ‘influencers’ across the world. Individuals including celebrities have been heavily criticised on social media for taking the editing of their images to the point of complete fantasy. The unrealistic alterations are then being seen by millions of their fans who will already view the celebrities as role models and strive to be like them. This will only end in disappointment for the fans as the images are essentially untrue and are manipulated beyond the ability to achieve them naturally. 

The manipulation and unattainable nature of images in advertising and social media essentially just presents a look or a lifestyle that the viewer feels like they should have. This ultimately leads to feelings of disappointment, inadequacy and negativity towards their own body image in failing to match this untrue portrayal. 

With the above points in mind, it is fair to state that advertising and social media do have a tenable link to negative body image amongst viewers and consumers. 

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On the other hand, there are some within the social media and advertising spheres who look to challenge the negative connection to body image. In 2017, the term ‘Body Positivity’ began somewhat of a campaign on Instagram. The hashtag #bodypositive was used 4.3 million times by those who shared images and comments of love and positivity about their natural bodies.

With the use of social media constantly inclining, it is the hope of many that movements such as #bodypositivity continue to gain momentum and filter more into the timelines of social media users young and old, male and female. In a society where attractiveness and self-worth are often related to weight and physical attributes, there is a definite need to guide viewers towards a positive body image and to celebrate their natural shape and sizes. A person’s appearance does not affect their character. 

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