To educate my viewers about how body representations depicted by the media can have traumatic impacts on people’s lives, contribute to multiple psychiatric illnesses and, in particular, end their lives.
The thesis of today, in this contemporary world, we are all growing up with false views about how our bodies can look. These standards are focused entirely on photographs of size zero women seen in television and in glossy magazines in particular. Digital technology has made photo retouching simpler and more popular among adolescents. Now, using all sorts of beautiful filters and improving the appearance of images has become a well-known standard. However, the body images portrayed by mass media has a lot of negative consequences such as trolling, bullying and exerting pressure on girls and boys to lose weight, to have flawless skin and to just look ‘perfect’. This is an important social pressing issue which has to be addressed on urgent basis and should not be neglected.
This portrayal of body image results in distorting values and contributes to low self-esteem. Hence mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders have become quite prevalent among girls and boys.
There should be a cultural shift in how people think when it comes to fashion and also should try embracing diversity in all spheres of life. The body image constructed by social media, magazines and television should be changed and altered. It is observed that the mass media plays an important role in molding people’s attitudes and beliefs, making individuals lose confidence in them by indulging in behaviors such as body shaming.
While talking about the link between media and body image, the one important thing that cannot be ignored is the amount of exposure individuals have to the images portrayed. The effect is highly significant; hence this issue is worth addressing. Almost all of the clothing designers recruit thin models for their print ads. Not just this, the ads are also touched up to make the models look flawless and skinnier.
Throughout the speech I will point out how mass media is portraying fake and fabricated body images and how this can lead to certain mental disorders. Also I will talk about how this issue can be resolved.
As mentioned above, false body images are unrealistic representation of the general population, thus it may have far-reaching consequences. These images contribute towards the feelings of anxiety, depression and inadequacy and can also lead to the development of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia. Mass media has the power to deceive young girls and boys, thus the body images it creates affects self-esteem, self-confidence and self-value of the individuals. According to a study by Mayo Clinic (2010), it is the peer pressure and portrayal of body images by media that fuels up the desire of the young girls to go with cosmetic surgeries and consume diet pills (2017).
The definition of beauty has changed in recent times and this perception is affecting masses. There is a constant pressure on young girls to lose weight and to be size zero. A woman on average is exposed to 400 to 500 advertisements per day even when she is not even 18 and so this exposure can make her self-obsessed and highly conscious of how she looks (Eating disorders: body, 2008). One such example of the distorted images is of a Barbie doll. Individuals from a very young age are exposed to a tall, slim and pretty doll possessing a tiny waist. This image represents beauty in general and so indirectly causes low self-esteem, eating disorders and insecurities of all sorts. Young girls even starve to get such good body and so this not only affects them physical or mentally but also emotionally (Rice, Prichard, Tiggemann & Slater, 2016). A self-report study was conducted on 257 preadolescent girls and a link was found between mass media and current/future body ideals and the eating disorders that consequently resulted (Harrinson and Hefner, 2006). One of the reasons is that adolescents do not understand that the images portrayed are all fabricated and computer enhanced, they don’t understand how everything shown on television is not real (Mcnutt et al., 1997). Also there is wide availability of such websites on internet that promotes eating disorders and starvation in particular. According to an ASAPS report there has been an increase in cosmetic surgeries over the last 12 years and this is mainly because of how media encourages young girls and boys to take such steps in order to look “perfect” (2017). Beauty and weight loss products are continuously flooding markets and so it is only the mass media that is encouraging usage of such products through its adverts.
Another study was conducted to investigate the influence of mass media on self-esteem and body image on 150 participants, both males and females. They completed questionnaires such as self-esteem scale, body image and a media usage questionnaire. It was found that males have lower body image as compared to females, which can contribute to the phenomenon that females are more conscious and obsessed on how they appear in front of people (Kim & Lennon, 2007). This study not only talks about the effect of media on body image but also the gender differences in relation to it.
The goal of mass marketing is to first make us believe and critical about our own self and then after we are fully convinced, they offer and market products such as anti-aging products, diet pills, face packs, hair growth serums and what not to fix our prescribed flaws. Undoubtedly they are doing an exceptional job in first making us feel bad and then providing us with solutions that can apparently fix our flaws. According to a study conducted in 2014, individuals who spend most of their time watching television are more likely to hold their perceptions of reality as comparable to tv reality (Tiggemann, 2014).
Since a lot of experimental and correlational studies have found links between mass media and body dissatisfaction and overall negative effects of media on particular, it is extremely essential to help eradicate this affect and to address this pressing social issue. There are some solutions for this; however a lot has been already done to help address the issue. For example a campaign has been launched by Caroline Nokes called, be real: body confidence for everyone. This campaign was a huge success and so it is extremely important for us to educate people around us on this issue and to help them not getting affected whenever media portrays such distorted body images. Secondly retailers should be encouraged to be a bit more responsible when it comes to marketing and advertising body related products. A large number of concerned viewers can actually contact advertisers and complain regarding their products. This way it can surely leave a positive impact; hence the advertising of such body related products and retouching of images could be improved. One other solution is to limit the exposure to advertisements and media images in particular. Also to be highly critical of the body images portrayed and to be aware of its long term affects. Most importantly anyone who feels having mental disorders or at least some of the symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleeping and eating disorders should consult a counselor or a therapist on urgent basis and should not be delayed. Some of the signs could be losing excessive weight, malnutrition, vomiting after every other meal and etc. Seeking help from a therapist can solve this issue or any other mental disorder. The one important thing to always keep in mind is to love yourself and your body. The images portrayed on media should not affect life choices or perceptions about oneself. It is also very important to understand that the images are fabricated and not at all true to life. To establish self-esteem it is necessary to be comfortable with your own body and to not let anything affect your perception of beauty.
Summary of main points: Mass media is considered a powerful tool when it comes to affecting perceptions of people and their lives particularly. The body images portrayed are all fabricated and retouched, hence not true to reality. When teenagers and youngsters are exposed to these images, it affects their mental and emotional health. The adverse effects might lead to some mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, eating and sleeping disorders.
Media accomplishes this quite affectively by first showing such body images, altering perceptions of the people and then advertising and encouraging the use of body related products and diet pills. It is extremely essential for individuals to be aware of wrong media influence and not to let anything affect them emotionally, mentally or physically. In this way we all can make a difference and stop media from manipulating and using its customers and normal public.
Rice, K., Prichard, I., Tiggemann, M., & Slater, A. (2016). Exposure to Barbie: Effects on thin-ideal internalisation, body esteem, and body dissatisfaction among young girls. Body Image, 19, 142-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.09.005
Harrison, K., & Hefner, V. (2006). Media Exposure, Current and Future Body Ideals, and Disordered Eating Among Preadolescent Girls: A Longitudinal Panel Study. Journal Of Youth And Adolescence, 35(2), 146-156. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10964-005-9008-3
Mcnutt, S., Hu, Y., Schreiber, G., Crawford, P., Obarzanek, E., & Mellin, L. (1997). A longitudinal study of the dietary practices of black and white girls 9 and 10 years old at enrollment: The NHLBI growth and health study. Journal Of Adolescent Health, 20(1), 27-37. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/s1054-139x(96)00176-0
Kim, J., & Lennon, S. (2007). Mass Media and Self-Esteem, Body Image, and Eating Disorder Tendencies. Clothing And Textiles Research Journal, 25(1), 3-23. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0887302×06296873
Tiggemann, M. (2014). The Status of Media Effects on Body Image Research: Commentary on Articles in the Themed Issue on Body Image and Media. Media
Psychology, 17(2), 127-133. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2014.891822