I can’t say I have been personally victimized and bullied on any form of social media; I didn’t have Facebook until college and on most of my other social medias, I didn’t have that many friends/followers. However, despite the lack of bullying as an influence on my body image, simply the presence of social media itself is enough to emphasize any insecurities someone may have.
You might ask: without a bullies pointing things out about you, what could be making someone so self-conscious? The answer: celebrities and just internet celebrities and all of the fake, edited photos that go floating around on social media. I personally follow numerous workout/fitness accounts on Instagram. I followed all of these accounts with the belief that they would motivate me to workout and stay in shape. Nonetheless, I still don’t have the motivation, but I do have terrible feelings about myself after seeing pictures of flawless bodies and fancy outfits. We’ll get into all the waist-training ads (gross) young women see later on.
Image courtesy of Missy Mizell
Growing up in a generation that was the first to really experience and learn/grow with social media as a large part of life and communication, we were the first to have to learn how to live with so many different influences, good or bad, in our faces all the time. Both boys and girls feel the pressure to have the perfect online presence. It is stressful to not be able to go online without seeing so many edited and altered pictures on not only the online celebrity pages, but everyone’s friends and family too.
Not only are famous people altering their photos, but probably everyone below the age of 35. Even though people know that some of their friends online don’t necessarily look exactly like the photos that the post of themselves, it doesn’t stop people from using filters and various editing apps to do the same to themselves. The best example of this silliness was the trend of a couple years ago to post pictures with the hashtag #nomakeup while some girls clearly were still had some form of makeup on. Most people are not fooled, but it makes the user feel better about themselves when their “mo makeup” selfie gets tons of likes.
People are just now beginning to try and change this for future generations. Going on Facebook and Instagram, I see just as many people trying to spread body positivity as I see edited photos of perfect skin and toned/muscular bodies. However, no matter how many people you see posting about loving yourself and appreciating all shapes and sizes of people, it’s still hard to ignore all the beautiful people you see that appear to live perfect lives.
In a BBC health article by Philippa Roxby interviewing Kelsey Hibberd, the director of a body positivity program that goes to schools to speak to students and teach their teachers how to support their children and combat body shaming, experienced a lot of bullying herself making her early teen years very tough. Hibberd discusses how people are only posting pictures and statuses that make them appear to their peers as as perfect and happy as possible. However, even though everybody is doing this, no one can help but to compare themselves to the other people on their feeds. This mentality that the goal of a post is to prove how beautiful and perfect you are instead of embracing and loving everyone and their flaws is this new technological generation’s downfall.
Recently it has become a trend that once people gains certain amount of followers, they start to advertise various products on their feed such as teas that are supposed to make you skinny or even waist-trainers that literally reshape you ribs and inner organs to have a slimmer waist. The impression that the posts give young people is not to live healthy lives through good diet and exercise, but that these people, mostly young women, need devices such as waist-trainers to actually reshape their bodies to fit society’s standards. When famous, pretty people, such as the Kardashians, post photos like the one above on Instagram of themselves using these products, young, impressionable girls begin to see and believe that the products will make their bodies look like the Kardashians. However, what not everybody takes into consideration is how much their magazine covers and other photo shoots are edited to make their waists look as slim as possible and the rest of their bodies perfect.
The constant need the younger generation feels to have the perfect physique is going to be an ongoing problem and struggle until we can teach our children to love themselves despite what they are seeing all over the internet. This topic goes beyond just peoples’ self esteem; the influence of social media on young girls has led so many down the slippery slope of various eating disorders. It is so easy to hurt someone or make them feel so bad about themselves that it starts to not just effect their emotional health, but their physical health as well.
The one good thing that comes out of all of this is the slowly growing amount of women that make it their goal to build each other up instead of putting people down. The main message we should be sending to each other and to the younger generation of girls is that no one is perfect and no one is 100% happy with everything about themselves, however we all need to love and appreciate our bodies and all of the flaws that come with it, because everyone is beautiful and unique.