Social Media and Popular Culture Does Affect The Way Teenage Girls Seem Themselves.
Social media has exposed the world to unrealistic body standards. Teenage girls have especially been affected by the social media frenzy. The official website for mayo clinic defines body dysmorphia as a mental disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance (2016). Body dysmorphia is a hefty problem that weighs in many young girls lives. Feeling the pressure to look like super models that have surgically enhanced their body’s can not only be mentally draining but also damaging. Social media and popular culture can negatively change how teenage girls view themselves and their bodies.
The first social media platform was a website called Six Degrees. Although it was the first social media website, it only lasted from 1997- 2001. This started a slow rise in communicating through the Internet. Social media started to become popular when MySpace was introduced in 2003. MySpace showed others that social media was quickly becoming the new form of communication and gave other companies inspiration. Facebook came along in 2004 founded by Mark Zuckerberg and became one of the most popular social media sites of all time. As of now, Facebook holds the title of highest rated and most users with over a billion people signed up. After Facebook, apps such as Snapchat and Instagram became a well-known form of communication. Today there are thousands of different social media websites to choose from. Knowing the history of social media and how second nature it has become for many individuals, it seems to only become stronger in the future. Humans have an instinct to communicate with others and with technology progressing everyday; it doesn’t look like social media will be stopping any time soon.
There are many different stages to body dysmorphia. Checking ones appearance in the mirror an odd amount of times could seem harmless, but more often than not it can lead to bigger psychological issues. Anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and extreme depression can all stem from body dysmorphia. Although these are all extreme affects of body dysmorphia, there are smaller issues that are more common. Avoiding social situations in fear others could be mocking their appearance in a negative connotation could be a sign someone is struggling with coming to terms with their body image. Needing constant reassurance from others or seeking compliments is where social media comes into play. Posting pictures of themselves and basing their self worth on how many comments or likes they receive on a photo isn’t healthy. Craving compliments from family members or friends can be considered a normal thing, but needed that from strangers on the Internet is where body dysmorphia sneaks in. Often times the body part that person is obsessing over could be something as ridiculous as vein appearance. Spider vein treatment is a cosmetic procedure where a surgeon can reduce the appearance of veins on the legs or hands. It is most commonly sought out by the elderly due to weakened valves. Plastic surgery doesn’t only involve breast augmentation or lip fillers; it could include reducing the appearance of veins. As deranged as it may sound to people who don’t struggle with body dysmorphia, it could make the world of difference to someone has anxiety from it. There isn’t a proven approved treatment or medication to help with body dysmorphia. Since depression can occur due to body dysmorphia, medicine to treat depression could be suggested.
Photoshop plays a significant role in how effortlessly easy it is to distort physical appearance. For the ones who don’t want to go as far as going under the knife, they resort to photo shop. Apps such as Face Tune are used to reshape people’s bodies and faces completely. It can start off by harmlessly blurring out a blemish to looking 50 pounds lighter all with a click of a button. Not everything that is uploaded to the Internet is true. Photoshop has made it very easy and assessable to lie. According to well-established fashion designer Marc Jacobs (2012), “I don’t love photo shop, I like imperfection. It doesn’t mean ugly.” Many girls believe that to become a successful model or figure in the spotlight you have to embody perfection. This isn’t true since many designers have come out and made statements on their distaste for photo shop and look for girls with “flaws” to hire for shows. A recent study showed that young girls actively using Facebook showed that they had a significant higher body image concern than those who didn’t use social media, the girls who were studied all were enrolled in university. This just shows that body dysmorphia isn’t only present in girls under the age of 18. It can still be prevalent in student women from the age of 18-22. Having that feeling of insecurity at an early age can carry over into adulthood.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (2017), “Eating disorders are illnesses in which the people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions.” Obsessing over body weight and what foods are consumed can be expected. Eating disorders belong in the same category as body dymorphia since both cause similar psychiatric disorders such as anxiety. They can be physically and mentally harmful if not treated properly. In 2014 a study with the University of Pittsburg School of Medicine researched 1,765 people from the ages of 19 and 32. The volunteers were then asked how long they usual spend on social media platforms. University of Pittsburg School of Medicine came to the conclusion that the ones who check their social media many times throughout the week are 2.6 times more likely to fall into an eating disorder than people without social media. More than 30 million United States citizens are currently suffering from an eating disorder. If social media didn’t exist that number would be drastically lower. Many people are hesitant to reach out for help due to the fear of being judged or humiliation. Stay silent when suffering could potentially make things worse. It is important for those not diagnosed to understand that having an eating disorder or body dysmorphia doesn’t make them inhuman. Every 62 minutes someone dies from an eating disorder. Having an eating disorder is a serious problem that could result in death. Although social media may not be the direct cause to many eating disorder cases, it sure can add to it.
Not only is this a problem for girls in the United States, but all across the world such as Korea. South Korea has fallen into the top 10 countries with the highest cosmetic surgery rate. Some of the standards Korean girls feel pressured to live up to include, small head, large eyes, smooth doll like skin, thin waist, and skinny arms. This has sadly contributed to cases where husbands would take their wives to court because their child did not look like the wife. Although most countries have an ideal body type for women, each country doesn’t have the same look. A girl who has what is considered the perfect all American body type maybe wouldn’t be deemed attractive in a country like South Korea. The standards might be different, but the pressure is still the same.
Social media isn’t the only contributing factor to body image. Books such as young adult (YA) fantasy portray many characters with a perfect body. There isn’t much representation in popular books for plus sized characters or even girls that would have a healthy body. This can be damaging for young girls knowing that their favorite character that they idolize doesn’t look like them. Published in September of 2015 was a book called “Dumplin’.” The main premise is about a young girl who feels pressured to have a perfect bikini body by her former beauty queen mother. Willowdean is a plus sized girl who doesn’t feel as if she is worthy to compete in beauty pageants. Throughout the book readers can expect to follow Willowdean through extraordinary character development. She goes from an insecure girl who doesn’t think she is good enough to competing in a pageant and finding love. The book hit the top 5 New York Times Best Selling list and is currently being turned into a film. Young girls and teenagers will have someone who isn’t the ideal body standard set by society to look up to. Having more representation in Hollywood with race and different body types can help young girls feel more comfortable in their own skin tremendously.
All in all, social media is a huge problem when it comes to body image. Most ages can relate to feeling insecure about their weight or life as a whole, but young girls can be the most impressionable. Understanding that this is an issue and can be solved is the first step to a solution. There are no guaranteed cures for psychiatric illnesses stemmed from social media such as eating disorders or body dysmorphia. But, there are many support groups and professional help that one should seek out if struggling. The Internet can be a great place full of positivity and love if used in the correct way. Being mindful and aware while browsing that it’s likely most of the women and men are photo shopped could help prevent many tough issues that could be faced in the future. Lying is easy when hiding behind a screen. Someone who might portray him or her as having the perfect life could be unhappy when the phone screen turns black. Just because it is on the Internet, doesn’t mean it’s real and should be envied.
Perloff, R. (2014, May 29) Social Media Effects on Young Women’s Body Image Concerns: Theoretical Perspectives and an Agenda for Research. doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0384-6.
Phillips, L. (2015) Real Women Arent Shiny (or Plastic): The Adolescent Female Body in YA Fantasy. Girlhood Studies. doi:10.3167/ghs.2015.080305
Pai, S. Schryver, K (2015) Children, Teens, Media, and Body Image. Common Sense Media. Retrieved from file:///Users/admin/Downloads/csm-body-image-report-012615-interactive.pdf
(2016, April 28) Body Dysmorphic Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353938
History Cooperative (n.d) The History of Social Media: Social Networking Evolution! Retrieved from https://historycooperative.org/the-history