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Social Media’s Impact On Body Image

Unrealistic Expectations

Can social media harm your self-esteem? It is a question that has haunted the online universe since its conception, but surely in the year 2014, we are experienced enough online to know the answer. Of course, everyone is different, and people react to situations in different ways, but in such a materialistic world, we all share one thing, and that is we all care how we look. If you go on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you will no doubt see a plethora of selfies, all of which are designed to make the subject look their finest.

social media body image
Source: agbeat.com
Body image is such a big discussion in the world we live in now, and the pressures to conform to the accepted image of your gender and culture are more aggressive than ever. These pressures tied with social media’s functions of visual expression pose a dangerous obsession for many. Sharing pictures of yourself may seem like the rational thing to do on social media networks, but it can be harmful in the long run. 
By delivering a linear, visual narrative of yourself online, you could be objectifying yourself and helping the culture of objectification that we live in, and this is especially relevant to females who are under a huge amount of pressure to conform to body image. In psychology, objectification refers to the tendency to treat an individual not as a person with emotions and consciousness, but as a being or object. In many cases, such as most advertisements, it refers to people as sexual objects, there to provide visual pleasures for others. Examples of this would display a person showing a lot of skin or posing in a sexualised position, and of course it is up to the individual how they act and portray themselves, but the media’s influence is perpetuating this theme, and promoting it to under 18s in many forms of advertisements i.e. shop windows.

We are now stuck in a society where the marketing schemes of many clothing companies are succeeding in making people think they are inadequate, and through this many are mimicking what they see in unrealistic images and projecting that onto social media. Coupled with the unrealistic expectations that men are pushed toward, it creates a dangerous world, where men expect their women clothed in next to nothing, whilst women expect their men to be the opposite of the objectified ‘soft’ female body, and in this case they want chiseled six-packs and arrow-like jaw-lines.

social media body image
Source: com111bodyimage.com
Instagram is a place where you will see the attempts at recreating these expectations, and with the handy filtering functions on hand, many are succeeding in transforming their online self into the way that big business want them to look. This way it makes them easier to market to in the long run. If people adhere to the image on the shop windows, they will enter the shop, it’s simple.

Not only will this impact the self physically and financially, but also most worryingly psychologically. What happens to human relationships when we are all too concerned with what we look like and what we are wearing? They will no doubt hold a lesser value in a society that becomes more concerned with material items.

Social media could hold the key for disaster and change, due to its nature. Communication is its primary function, as you can connect from one end of the Earth to another in just seconds, and this promotes friendship and education, but it also holds a function that can be damaging. What are we saying when we upload a selfie? Have we been programmed to invest in appearance more than psychological connections? At this point in time, yes, but social media has the power to change that if we start using it for what it was designed for.


Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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Social Media’s Impact On Body Image Reviewed by Alex Smith on Tuesday, October 28, 2014 Rating: 5
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