Updated: Oct 28, 2021
Written By Hira Khan
Imagine this, you are scrolling through your phone, on Instagram and suddenly you see a post from your favorite celebrity or a model. You start to think to yourself, “wow, I wish I had a body like that” or maybe you think “I wish I had their perfect skin”. From that, you begin to look up skincare products to get skin like theirs, or maybe you hit YouTube and try some workout videos to try to “fix” your body to be less like “you”. These familiar experiences are not just unrealistic, they are harmful and they are caused by something we consume almost every day. The media.
What Aspects of Mental Health Does It Affect?
The media impacts two areas of mental health, self esteem and body image. Self esteem is how you value and appreciate your entire self and can impact how you care for and respect yourself. Body image is how you feel about your body, in your mind. It is your attitude and behavior towards the size or shape of your body. Both body image and self esteem are concepts created in the mind. When you have a negative body image, it can lead to body dissatisfaction. Body dissatisfaction is when you believe that your body does not meet society’s standards regardless of the person’s actual size or shape. Body dissatisfaction is linked often with other mental health issues
like “unhealthy behaviors, including eating disorders and chronic dieting”
How Does Media Impact Mental Health?
Social media has a negative impact on body image and self esteem because of its structure. Social media has a variety of ways to spread the ideal body or look, through ads or influencers.
Ads are surrounding us everywhere. Ads use the idea that happiness can come from buying products, using the message that people must “transform” themselves, instantly. These ads telling people that by changing themselves, they can become more “beautiful” and be “more happy”. Ads aren’t the only way that this idea is shown, the media also plays a role too. In the media, models are selected and promoted based on the fulfillment of a certain ideal, such as having acne free skin or being a size 2. These models to set a standard of beauty by promoting models that fulfill that criteria as a “symbol of beauty”. Therefore, the media indirectly communicates what people “should” look like, leading to people altering their bodies to reach this standard. People see these images which are promoted as “beautiful” through ads, cause people to believe that this is what true beauty is. The reality is that, the “ideal image” you see, is created by the media, to help the media sell their products by creating nonexistent issues. The media creating unrealistic issues is well documented, with Vogue magazine creating the word “cellulite” in 1968 to help sell their products. This just goes to show how the media invents issues
that did not even exist before, just to sell their product. Research shows that by creating issues with people’s body and making them compare themselves to models, it makes people insecure, which causes them to spend more money on these products, thus the media exploits people for profit.
Consume Your Content Wisely!
To combat these harmful effects of social media, try exposing yourself to diverse media that shows a variety of body types and conditions, like plus size or stretch marks. Studies show that following body positive accounts can boost body satisfaction. Another way is to set boundaries with your media use, not being afraid to unfollow any accounts or media that overstepped your boundaries and hurts your body image and self esteem. Instead, practice positive affirmations and meditative practices to improve your body image. Remember, healthy body image is not just tolerating yourself, it is true acceptance of who you are and believing that you do not need to change a single thing about yourself to fit your expectations. Good self esteem means you respect yourself, and you deserve self care and treatment from you and others.
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