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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.

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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.

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One thought on “Social Media’s Impact on Tweens and Teens’ Body Images

  1. This post encapsulates the “packaged self” phenomenon described in the App Generation reading: how youth feel unconsciously pressured to present the most beautiful, successful, accomplished, happiest version of themselves online as to hold up to the standards of society or their peers. I remember being taken aback when I realized I was definitely subject to this tendency on my own social medias, and it’s changed my perspective on the self that I present online. I appreciate how this post focuses specifically on the physical pressures youth have to confront, which every one of us has experienced in one way or another. It’s an unfortunate reality, and though it’s gotten more attention in the past couple years, it should probably be discussed more!

    However, I wouldn’t blame celebrities or internet celebrities for instigating this; if anything, they’re victims of this pressure too, but just continue the cycle of insecurities by presenting THEIR most attractive version of themselves online and supporting health/weight loss products. However, often the products they are endorsing are because they’re getting huge amounts of money to do so. Though it’s probably not a redeeming quality to get paid to make a huge audience feel insecure, the root of the problem isn’t in rich, skinny people on social media.

    I’ve recently watched Miss Representation, a documentary about how the media portrays women and how that affects American women’s leadership, self-esteem, and ambition. Those who control the media (television, magazines, news, and even the ownership and regulations of social media) have immense power to shape culture and the values of society; and so much of the media, at least in the past, has leaned towards valuing women for being skinny, attractive and sexy. Kelsey Hibberd’s body positivity program is a great example of the work that can be done, especially amongst a younger audience, to combat the kind of pressures we are faced with from the media, advertisements, and negative trends across social media. When mainstream media begins to fully embrace women of shapes, sizes, races, and professions; when more women are IN these influential media positions; and when the media/social media consciously combats the images and trends for body shaming and female-shaming in general; I hope progress towards a more universal, positive self esteem amongst America’s youth will become the new trend.

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