Social Media and Body Image

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Social Media and Body Image

This essay will discuss the impact of social media on body image. It will explore how social media platforms can influence perceptions of beauty and self-esteem, and the psychological effects this can have, particularly on young people. At PapersOwl too, you can discover numerous free essay illustrations related to Body Image.

Category:Body Image
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Beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder. It has been altered, copied and pasted, and manipulated to look like everyone else. Societies’ view on beauty has been molded throughout the years to confine to narrow ideas of beauty. These beauty standards have been filled with negative images portrayed by the media. Today’s media has been manipulated with images with photoshop editing, fad diets and unrealistic expectations on standards of what a person should look like. Even though social expectations do not dictate what we change ourselves, the media negatively distorts body image.

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Body image refers to people’s judgements of themselves and their own bodies. It is formed when people compare themselves to that of others. By establishing unattainable standards of beauty and bodily perfection, the media drives people to dissatisfaction of their body image. This dissatisfaction can result to drastic measures and even disorders of behavior, as people try to achieve these unreachable goals. With social media becoming a more popular source of entertainment, it will continue to create body image issues. Through the years, history has shown us how body image has changed because of society standards.

Before messages about body image were expanded to its current size and speed by electronic mass, messages about body image were carried by magazines, newspapers, books and print ads. Unrealistic standards of body image have not been a recent trend just brought on by the increase in technology. Body image has been altered over the past 300 years. This has been hugely in part to the accordance to what society deems attractive. In the 17th century, curvy voluptuous woman was considered to be the ideal beauty standard for women in the U.S and Europe. Peter Paul Rubens, a 17th century painter was famous for depicting plump, sensual women, coined Rubenesque (VanBuskirk). Throughout the 1900s woman were depicted with a thin waist, large bosom, and rounded shoulders, many times using corsets to physically shift the shape and size of their waist. From the 1920s onward, body image was continually altered and shaped, idealizing slimmer body types. For example, flappers on the 1920s had slender builds, women of the 1940s and 50’s felt pressure to conform to the airbrushed ideals of mass-produced pinup girls, and by the 60’s women adopted slender, almost emaciated looks like that of Twiggy. Eventually arriving into the 1990’s and 2000’s. During this time period the sensationalized heroin chic, associated with Kate Moss, this look exemplified a slender frame, and sunken cheeks which became the status of beauty to be obtained by other models. If models had become any skinnier, they wouldn’t have been able to walk the runway.

A cross sectional survey observing the trends within the area of body image satisfaction made it certain that females had reported relatively more satisfaction in the 1960’s that in 1990’s (Agliata). The comparison of body image and satisfaction has shown to be swayed by media influences. The ongoing alterations of woman’s bodies will only continue with the rise of social media. Therefore, history has shown that media imagery is influential in the way women perceive themselves. In today’s society, social media has become the main source of body image dissatisfaction. As technology has grown, so has the amount of exposure a person will experience throughout the day. According to the first-quarter 2018 Nielsen Total Audience report, nearly half an adults’ day is dedicated to consuming this content (Schmall). Today, people are exposed to more images to compare themselves to than ever before. This constant exposure affects viewers. With social media on the rise, unrealistic body images and picture-perfect lifestyles overload a screen at any given time. A cookie cutter image of the Kardashians has been at the forefront of today’s social standard. Large lips, curvy hips and a large buttock has been seen as the epitome of modern idealistic beauty. Women are going as far as to alter their looks by cosmetic surgery to obtain the look.

Generally, celebrities in the 80s and 90s received plastic surgery, but the significant cultural shift toward creating idealistic bodies has pushed plastic surgery business into the foreseeable future. Women feel increasingly pressured by the media about their bodies. Images that are shown on media platforms depict unrealistic bodies that reflect a society that has unobtainable expectations. However, body positive accounts have been made to counteract what is happening in society. Body stereotypes have long held a rein in dictating society’s view on beauty, but the body positive movement has gained steam over the past years. Plus size models and other varying types of body types are rebelling against societies’ push to conform society’s ideal body stereotype. The body positive movement refers to accepting the body that you have, regardless of age, shape, size and race. Multiple social media accounts have been produced to rejoice in the bodies that a person is currently in. Though the body positive movement is among us, it is not here to stay. Many plus size models are still outside the average American body, cat walking with flawless faces, long legs and flat stomachs. There is still a society label on plus size models who are narrowly labeled as being unattractive and are heavily criticized. The fact is, that body positive social media accounts are narrow in their inclusion of what is socially appropriate. Many times, body positive groups exclude another group.


There are also misconceptions that body positive groups are promoting being unhealthy by accepting those who are larger in size. Regardless of the trend, the truth remains that the body positive movement is advertised as a ‘love yourself movement’ when really it is nothing more than a way for companies to use it as a campaign. Society should have a positive view on body image but instead it is misleading in its movement, producing body dissatisfaction. The fact remains that body positive outlets do not deter from the rise of psychological disorders. The effect social media has on body image has caused a rise in disorders, such as self-esteem, depression and eating disorders. Overexposure to social media has skewed normal standards of health and beauty for woman throughout society. Richard Perloff, a Professor of communications at Cleveland State University says, “Many cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys have found that media exposure predicts body dissatisfaction, thin body ideals, and eating disorder symptomatology among preadolescent girls and young women” (Perloff). People compare themselves to these images while internalizing the feelings associated with not being good enough, they then absorb the message that they should associate themselves based on their appearance.

Some people are affected by reacting quickly and strongly to images while others are resistant to images and they do not affect that person. These reactions have to do with an individual’s traits such as self-esteem, how they feel about their appearance, and images that may become triggers. Some triggers may cause issues towards one’s body issue such as depression, low self-esteem and even eating disorders. However, overexposure doesn’t always mean someone will feel worse about their bodies. People that are affected are not equally affected by images portrayed by the media. There are suggestions that the effect of body image standards can be felt in several areas. It is natural to compare oneself to another, but when observations go beyond a healthy correlation and people tell themselves that their bodies are substandard, there may become instances of feeling depressed or suffer from low self-esteem, possibly even develop and eating disorder.

Other unhealthy habits may develop because of unrealistic standards, such as smoking, alcohol and drugs. Overexposure has accelerated the development of psychological disorders and with the continual use of social media, the next generation will follow suit. Media has attributed to many expectations of women’s body image. The ongoing evolution of body image has shown to alter throughout the years, and historically has shown the downsizing of the human body and what is deemed attractive. People associate their image as their self-worth, and this shouldn’t be the case. The way society has molded people with unrealistic standards should not create harm on a person who do not feel adequate enough. Images of unattainable standards should not be plastered on billboards and screens to be a representation of what a stereotypical person should look like. As trends show and beauty standard alter, correlations have been showing dissatisfaction whether it be depression, anxiety or an eating disorder. Social media’s popularity will continue to morph the standards of body image.    

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Social Media and Body Image. (2021, Apr 01). Retrieved from