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How Technology and Social Media Influences Body Image

In the rapid evolution of our society today, advances in technology have dictated the course of human interactions. The way we interface with one another is largely hinged on the capacities that have developed throughout the years. Face-to-face connections are often pushed aside for text messaging, emails, and the like. What has been lost and sacrificed in the name of convenience and expediency?

There Are Consequences to Our Convenient Technology

While technology has allowed us the accessibility of connecting with one another through countless venues, it is also necessary to understand the potential consequences of living within a saturated culture. With billions of dollars spent in advertising and marketing in the United States alone, technology is typically the platform of delivery in which we intercept and interpret messages about ourselves, our self-worth, and our bodies.

While immersed in a social media culture, we are continually bombarded with advertisements, whether through our Smartphone’s, tablets, or like device, facing a constant stream of products and services that we come to believe are needed. This is all in addition to the images we see on a constant basis. While we may not be conscious of it, technology has influenced the way we perceive ourselves and one another.

Media Does Play a Role in Body Image

As eating disorders because increasingly problematic in countless individuals, understanding the impact of technology and media in our society is a cause for concern. Experts have hypothesized that media does in fact play a significant role on the development of an adolescent’s body image, weight apprehensions, and self-perception.

As mass media has often taken a central part of our daily functioning, researchers are making correlations between poor body image, an increased prevalence in eating disorders, and media [1].

The truth of the matter is that our culture today is defined by the mass media, from the readily accessible Internet, including:

  • Movies
  • Magazines
  • Fashion ideals
  • Billboards
  • Advertisements
  • Other mediums

Woman using phone and techologyStatistics have revealed that our children are exposed to an average of six to seven hours of combined media on any given day [2]. This is particularly troublesome, considering the fact that children do not yet have the developed thought processes to differentiate between what is real and what is false.

The mainstream media is permeated with diet culture, including photo shopped images of men and women, advertisements for diet products, weight loss messages, and more. For individuals frequently exposed to the mainstream media messages through technology use, there can be little differentiation between what is reality and what is falsified.

The Influence of Media Is Strong During Childhood

The media, through technological advances, penetrates the minds of younger generations early in their lives, powerfully influencing decreased body satisfaction. Many research studies have discovered a connection between exposure to fashion magazines and a heightened level of eating disorder symptoms in girls [1]. Children and adolescents are not the only vulnerable groups to media saturation, as research has also shown a relationship between media exposure and eating disorders among college-aged students [3].

With so much at stake, what are the best ways to approach media? How can technology be used in a manner that is favorable and beneficial to us as individuals? Here are some helpful tips for approaching the daily infiltration we encounter through media and technology:

Be Educated

Many individuals are unaware of the unrealistic standards of beauty that are often idealized in media. Becoming educated with media literacy can be instrumental in helping young people evaluate advertising content more critically [1]. Local schools and colleges may offer these types of programs that can offer greater understanding into the complexities of media and advertising.

Educating children, adolescents, and teenagers about the role of the mainstream media, how advertisements are run, the intent behind marketing, etc., can all be helpful in raising awareness about the false lure of media itself.

Be Empowered

Parents, caregivers, family members, and friends can all play a powerful role by advocating for and promoting positive body image. Constructive and affirmative actions are instrumental for establishing a strong foundation for life. Living and promoting body acceptance at any size, weight, or shape is a beautiful message to share with own family and society as a whole.

While these messages are typically counter to what the mainstream media says is acceptable, it is exactly these kinds of voices that are needed in a society that is generally unforgiving to individuals who don’t meet the standard body shape that is constantly promoted.

Become Involved

Many advocacy groups, such as the Eating Disorder Coalition, have goals of promoting legislation at the federal level, which will bring greater transparency to advertising and marketing. You can help the cause of these groups by joining their efforts and becoming an advocate! This is a wonderful way to involve children and teenagers in a cause that is greater than themselves, helping them understand the bigger picture and how millions are impacted by an unregulated advertising market.

Woman on phone Eating disorders are severe psychiatric illnesses with unforgiving consequences. While we cannot be shielded from the multiple ways that the media falsifies beauty and body images, we can have a greater understanding about how to filter the messages that are continually transcribed.

Practicing awareness of how technology and media are used to advance a purpose can also be helpful in discerning the messages we encounter on a daily basis.

 


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing.  As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


References:

[1]:  Anne M Morris, MBBS, MPH, FRACP, and Debra K Katzman, MD, FRCPC. The impact of the media on eating disorders in children and adolescents. Paediatr Child Health. 2003 May-Jun; 8(5): 287–289.
[2]: The mass media and American adolescents’ health. Brown JD, Witherspoon EM J Adolesc Health. 2002 Dec; 31(6 Suppl):153-70.
[3]: Harrison K, Cantor J. The relationship between media consumption and eating disorders. J Commun.  1997;47:40–67.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 17, 2017.
Edited And Updated By: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 17, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

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