Body Image

A dive into the impact of social media and how we view ourselves.

Anna Cardon, Reporter

Leaf through a magazine. What do you see? Glossy ads for beauty products populate the pages, eye catching letters declaring that if one just follows this diet routine they’ll lose weight. Or, perhaps that this one celebrity will disclose their secret to a curvy, but somehow skinny, body on page 27. Billboards display slender models with shiny hair and bright, fake smiles. Celebrities walk down red carpets in luxurious clothing, draped in Burberry, Gucci, dazzling colors and glittery fabric that paints their bodies. No one can keep up. 

The ideal body image has always been pushed by something – religion, racism, wealth and culture, most always connected to a social standard. In Ancient Greece, bodies that were larger showed signs of wealth and luxury and were praised. Statues of their deities still populate museums, an echo of what was long ago considered desirable. Years later, it was still the idea of wealth, but significantly backed up by racism. For instance, during the Italian Renaissance women reflected their husbands wealth and status through a full body and pale skin.  In the 50’s, idols such as Marilyn Monroe lined magazine shelves, only for the standard to flip once again years later when slender and thin bodies were praised instead. 

While beauty standards have begun to bridge the gap of being inclusive through the entertainment and beauty industry, they still continue to cater to a small group of the population. Biologically, it’s very difficult to attain the body deemed attractive by our generation, and few can reach it without the use of plastic surgery or excessive dieting. That’s not to say previous ideal body types have been unachievable, but the usage of plastic surgery and growing availability of cosmetics have made it easier for some to portray that ideal standard. However, there is one factor that previous generations did not have in the equation – social media. 

From what began as the internet turned into social media sites that gave individuals the ability to interact virtually, post about their lives and keep up with friends.

“Many people discover new passions, hobbies, or even current world subjects over social media which can introduce new learning or understanding,” freshman Gabi Diaz said. 

But even with the pros, the cons caught up soon enough.

“If you really think about it, nothing on the internet is exactly how it seems,” Diaz said. “Photos and videos consisting of an amazing family, amazing body type, amazing leisure life, etc. aren’t always how the creators make them out to be.”

Social media tends to be the example of only the pleasant things in life, opposed to the bad. Even pictures that some people don’t completely like will be posted moments later, but altered with filters or photoshop. 

It wasn’t a surprise when a study done by the Florida House Experience, a healthcare institution, found that 87% of women and 65% of men compare their bodies to images and photos they see on social media. 

This illustrates truly how much social media has impacted body image. Before social media, people would compare themselves to the people around them and the media but now that world has become much larger. 

The constant exposure to social media, especially from a young age in our younger generation, has made us focus on our bodies far more than before.

It is true that the beauty standard has changed for the better in the past few years. While there’s still a very long way to go, it’s become more inclusive, especially on some sides of social media.  

“Eurocentric features are more praised than afrocentric features, but it’s kind of grown to where we were praising eurocentric, light skinned girls, and now we’re praising darker skinned women and the slim thick stereotype that we hear,” sophomore Ike Oyediran said. 

While some sides of the media body image have slowly begun to be more inclusive, the majority of beauty and movie industries are yet to catch up. For many people like Oyediran, finding a space where they can feel represented is incredibly difficult. 

“It definitely makes me feel like I don’t fit in with the beauty standard,” Oyediran said. “Honestly, the beauty standard has changed a lot. In a good way too, but it’s also sort of become toxic to where I feel like because of the way certain other people look, it makes me feel like, ‘why can’t I be pretty in this way?’”

That’s not to say one doesn’t feel self conscious even without the use of social media, but rather that it’s only increased our access to a place that will confront those feelings head on. In fact, the increased usage of social media has only enforced the idea of perfection. 

“Kids in the 21st century have been exposed to a world where the internet and editing exist,” Diaz said. “This presence in the lives of young and clueless kids can (and will) cause these idealistic ideas of how to “fit in”.” 

Growing up in a world where certain bodies and people are praised in movies, magazines and media posts while others are pushed aside can affect the way we see ourselves and others. 

“Social media has affected modern-day standards idolizing the “perfect person” that amplifies insecurity,” said Diaz. “For all individuals, there is some sort of figure or celebrity that is present on social media that they want to look like.”

It’s like tunnel vision, beauty can be found nearly everywhere in countless ways, but the focus is on the ideal person instead.