Body Image Through the Lens of the Media

Body Image Through the Lens of the Media

Wellness looks different for each individual, and no person should feel inferior based on the way they look. The past year has been filled with traumatic events that have affected many people mentally, emotionally and physically. Just as people go through emotions, their bodies also are subject to change, especially in the middle of a pandemic. As we know, social media is a great tool to maintain and create connections. It is also where users struggling with self-esteem issues often turn to. Body image and social media have a complex relationship. Individuals can see content with encouraging body empowerment posts. In retrospect, social media networks have documented the evolution of ever-changing ideal body images. Unfortunately, society's standards are based on unrealistic photo-shopped images.

1,000 people were surveyed and asked about their perspective on their body image and their social media use through a study created by the Florida House Experience. The data concluded that 87% of women and 65% of men compared themselves to images from the media. The research showed that 50% of women and 37% of men viewed their own bodies as “unfavorable.” Social media filters have the potential to amp the desire to enhance, distort lessen certain aspects of a person’s features.

Body dysmorphic disorder is “an excessive preoccupation with one or more imagined or minor flaws in their physical appearance, which causes significant distress and impairs their social and occupational functioning,” according to a study conducted by the Industrial Psychiatry Journal. 1 in 50 people in the United States has this disorder compared to a ratio of 7 in 10 Americans who use social media. This means that nearly 5 to 10 million Americans suffer from this disorder and could be using social media.

Social media can enlighten someone’s mind and spirit, but it can also bring someone down just as easily. We recognize social media is not the only factor in regards to body image, but it plays a key role in the lives of people across the globe. This problem of course began long before the digital age. As they say, history has a habit of repeating itself.

Throughout time, body image has varied based on era. From art to movie screens and now on our phone screens, the “ideal” body type consistently changes. The body’s image was first showcased in the sculpture, Venus of Willendorf, nearly 25,000 years ago. The sculpture resembled a curvy woman’s physique. As time went on, muscular, slim bodies were shaped in Greek and Roman artwork. Throughout the following centuries, corsets were integrated into fashion and displayed in art and film. Later, muscular builds, abs, flat stomachs, and cellulite-free skin were all body aesthetics for viewers to admire.

Now in the present day, it’s a mix of various body trends made popular. It has left many social media users desiring to resemble a specific aesthetic. What remains interesting is the simple fact that bodies vary in shape and size, yet often the media only highlights certain body types or features. The effect on someone’s self-esteem can be impactful for a lifetime. How you view yourself affects your perception of those around you as well.

Here are some helpful tips to stay encouraged and empowered!

  • Check-in on your digital wellness routines. It is important to recognize when you need to take a step back from social media and how you should go about doing so.
    • Clean out your following list. If following certain accounts makes you feel bad about yourself, don’t hesitate to unfollow. Use your best judgment when you do this. Look into who you follow and why. 
    • Follow inclusive accounts. There are so many encouraging accounts to admire and share posts from. Brighten your screen time with positivity. Here are three Instagram accounts promoting both positivity and inclusivity:
    • Replace FOMO with JOMO. If you decide to take your hiatus from social media, you may feel like you’re missing out. The time spent will help to open your mind and allow you to find joy in the offline areas of your life. 
    • Check out our resources page on our website for more insight.
  • Make a list of positive affirmations. Create some positive “I am” statements and recite them to yourself regularly. It helps to start this process at the beginning of every day. (Tip: If you need help writing affirmations, use Pinterest to find some good ideas to add to your list.)
  • Write a least a list of things you love about yourself. Take the time to admire yourself rather than tear yourself down, or compare yourself to others. You are uniquely yourself! Find the joy in being you.
  • Ask for help. Never feel like you are alone! If you are struggling with how you feel about yourself and your body it may be time to get help.
    • Tell a trusted person (i.e: friend, family member, co-worker.)
      • Let them know if you need help contacting a mental health professional for assistance.
    • Call (800)931-2237 or text “NEDA” to 741741 for the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline
      • The hotline is available Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST, and Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.
      • Chat services are available Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

Keep in mind, social media is a highlight reel of someone else's life. You only see what they want you to see. This is the foundation of society's unrealistic standards. Remember, embracing yourself allows you to be the best version of yourself you can be.

For more information and other resources, visit our website's Resources for Teen's Page.