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The topic of body image gets quite a bit of attention nowadays given the rise in significance of physical appearance. Body image refers to how a person views themselves, whether that be in a positive or negative way. What you believe about your own appearance and how you feel about your body are two big factors in determining if you have a positive body image or negative body image. The way that someone views themselves doesn’t always correspond with the unbiased reality, or how others might see them.
Body image has a lot to do with personal feelings, but it can also be influenced by the environment someone lives in, past experiences they’ve had, and a big one in our society today is social media. Nonetheless, having a negative self image goes beyond how people feel about themselves and has big impact on your behavior. Obsession with body image is very common among American women. Young boys and men suffer negative body image too, but they are less likely to admit to being affected than girls are.
Negative body image affects so many individuals and has become a recurring headline on all forms of entertainment and information covers. The human body holds such great value that goes beyond looks, yet we live in a world where looks seem to take priority. Although there is no one specific cause to body dissatisfaction and negative body image, there’s a variety of factors that contribute to it.
In today’s society, teenagers and young adults have grown up with social media apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter at their fingertips.
With the rise of social media, people are exposed to images of body types that the majority of media promotes as most attractive. The connection between social media and body image is still being researched, but there is no doubt that social media can affect how someone perceives themselves in a negative way. On the Everyone’s an Author Tumblr Page, there was an article called “Wellness? Well, not so much” that involves the idea of body image and social media. Flat Tummy Co. was advertised on the social platform, Instagram, that caught the attention of many female teenagers and young adults. The company was advertising appetite suppressant lollipops and detox teas that would help young females achieve the social expectation of having a flat stomach.Instagram claims it wants to be one of the “most kind and safe” places on the internet, but having the Flat Tummy Co. page easily accessible on the platform influences young women to view their body in a negative way.These unrealistic body goals that girls want to achieve can lead to an unhealthy body image, low self-esteem, eating behaviors which can be life threatening if not carefully monitored which in the long run does not create a body positive environment. One of Flat Tummy Co.’s former employees stated that having the company’s page available on instagram “is not sending a positive message for women”. Even celebrities, for example, Kim Kardashian are supporting companies like the Flat Tummy Company. There are young girls in the world who look up to Kim and will try anything she’s promoting. Though this is good for the business because they’re making money selling their products, it is not good for the wellness of young girls in society. With all this said, it is shown in recent studies that the more time an individual spends on social media, there has been an increased drive and desire for women to obtain the “ideal body”.
Alarming new research has shown that girls as young as 6 years old are starting to develop body image concerns. By the age of 7, one in four kids have been drawn in to the concept of dieting and maybe even tried it. As stated by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ‘Children are influenced by media–they learn by observing, imitating, and making behaviors their own.” With the rise of media and because of how accessible it has become, it has steadily influenced children and how they view themselves and the world around them. In recent studies done by AAP, it is said that children between the ages of 8 and 10 years old spend nearly 8 hours a day on some kind of media. “Researchers have suggested that media may influence the development of self-esteem in adolescents through messages about body image” (James W. Guthrie, Media Influence). Promotion of unrealistic body images and poor health habits are capturing the attention of the young ones. Advertisements that adhere to a certain body standards may be a catalyst for eating disorders among adolescents. Though there are positive ways the media has impacted children, the negative influences it has, has been more commonly researched.
Body image issues can often lead to psychological repercussion. Individuals who are not satisfied with their bodies are more likely to fall into the trap of significant weight loss behaviors such as starvation (also known as fasting). Extended starvation is commonly known as Anorexia Nervosa, and can lead to increases in depression symptoms such as severe emotional distress, isolation, and self harm. How the brain functions is highly compromised when the body is being starved of food and nutrients it needs to remain healthy and operate well. The brains of individuals with this eating disorder have a persistent disturbance of 5-HT (serotonin) neuronal systems that may be connected to increased anxiety and lead them to perceive their actions are flawed or inaccurate. Body dissatisfaction is also associated with higher occurrences of cigarette and alcohol use, which leads to another way of shutting down internal organs. Though not all adolescents respond to exposure to the media in the same way, Justine J. Reel states that “Given the effects that negative body image can have on our overall health, professionals are recognizing the negative body image as a serious threat to our physical health and well-being”
Since the topic of body image gets quite a bit of attention in today’s society, and is often reflected in a negative light, changing the way the media portrays body image is a long-term goal for many advocacy groups that are out in the world. Currently there are both national and international attempts to make marketers take responsibility for displaying unrealistic portrayals of people. The Body Positive is one of many advocacy groups that promotes “creating a world in which people value their unique identities and are liberated from self-hatred so they can optimize their energy and intellect to make positive changes in their own lives, communities, and beyond.” With commitment to wellness, negative body image doesn’t always have to be the hot topic.
Within the psychoanalytic study, body image typically is not related to any objective measure but is subjective. Body image is a complex concept that generally encompasses how people perceive and feel about their physical appearance, including the weight, size, shape, or athletic ability of their bodies and is a way for people to compare themselves to an unrealistic ideal. Images of the ideal body can be advertised through social media networking which captures the attention of many age groups. Studies show that social media plays an important role in how people view themselves and has significant effects on human mental health.
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