before in human history has any generation been as connected to the media as
today’s modern society. We interact with the media in various forms repeatedly
throughout the day. Images from television, magazines, and newspapers
advertisements bombard us with the message that thin is beautiful. The message is further reinforced by social
media apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter encouraging us to
emulate unrealistic body ideals. Adolescents
and young adults are especially susceptible to the impact of these standards of
what is considered perfection. The not so subtle communication is that people
will like you better and you will be more desirable, but only if you look like the this type. In their effort to copy those
they admire in the mass media, an increasing number of adolescents are
developing eating disorders and negative body images that are ruining their
health and can lead to death.
of research studies have been performed to analyze the effect that the media
has on the prevalence of eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa (AN),
Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorders (BED).
The National Eating Disorders Association
states that, “Numerous correlational and experimental studies have clearly linked
exposure to the thin ideal in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization
of the thin ideal, and disordered eating among women.” (NEDA, 2015) All of
these messages on TV, magazines and online continually reinforcing the feeling that
who we are right now is just not good enough.
If you want to be successful and loved in this world, you have to be
skinny, anything else is equated with failure.
Even though most teens are aware
that many of these images have been filtered, photo shopped, or altered in some
way to achieve a certain look, the desire to look like their idols may lead
them to pursuing harmful habits. This unattainable
ideal appearance that teens literally die trying to achieve is one fabricated
and nearly impossible to replicate.
Furthermore, one study performed in 2011 on
girls between the ages of twelve and nineteen by Prof. Yael Latzer at the
University of Haifa found that the “more time girls spend on Facebook, the more
they suffered conditions of bulimia, anorexia, physical dissatisfaction,
negative physical self-image, negative approach to eating and more of an urge
to be on a weight-loss diet.”(USA Today, 2014) This study sheds light on how social
media use can amplify behavioral thoughts about obsessions with thinness,
dieting, and other destructive behaviors.
Some of these behaviors are compounded through a constant stream of comparison
between their local peers and the celebrity ideal. In a search for acceptance
and approval in the form of “likes” between 1
– 2 out of every 100 students in America now struggles with an eating disorder. (KidsHealth.org, 2014)
statistics reveal that, on average, a child or adolescent watches up to 5 hours
of television per day and spends an average of 6 to 7 hours viewing the various
media combined.” (Brown, 2012) Spending all this time throughout the day
exposed to the influence of hundreds of ads, can alter a teen’s perception of
what a healthy, average person should look like. This discrepancy between the published images
online and reality gives teen’s intense dissatisfaction with their own bodies.
Additionally, In the Journal of Pediatric
Medicine, author Dr. Field “found that the importance of thinness and trying to
look like women on television, in movies or in magazines were predictive of
young girls (9 to 14 years old) beginning to purge at least monthly.” (Field et
al, 1999) If these results were obvious almost twenty years, how many more
youths are affected today between the inescapable presence of television and
other online media? In an effort, to keep up with the Kardashians, adolescents
are literally starving themselves to death.
conclusion, the media’s characterization of what is beautiful and thin is distorting
the body image of our generation. The
pursuit of thinness and becoming disciples of the destructive practices of
anorexia and bulimia are ruining the lives of thousands of girls. The media has the responsibility to begin to
change and represent a broader definition of what is beautiful. Sharing a new message instead, that beauty
comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, may yet return a more positive body
image to future adolescents.