Media's Effect on Body Image

Body image is a mental picture that a person creates and perceives that may or may not be how others view that person’s body. These attitudes a person experiences exist in both sexes and can be carried with them through their entire life (Cash, 2004). Researchers have often questioned how, over time, body image has become more of a life burden. Between young children, women, and men, media has played a leading role in how society is now affected by the unrealistic view of a person’s body. Body image dissatisfaction is not uncommon and tends to affect the quality of someone’s life.

At a time when young men and women focus on developing their individual identities, they are also very susceptible to social pressure, which makes a profound influence on how they envision their bodies (Carter, Smith, Bostick & Grant, 2013). Traditionally seen more as an issue for girls, a 2012 study found that 50% of high school boys, along with girls, struggle with thinking they are either too little or too big. There are many personal characteristics that people feel unsatisfied about; body image being the number one dissatisfaction (Whyte, Newman & Voss, 2016).

Starting as young as age three, little girls, especially in higher class families, are being conditioned that a beautiful body image is tall and thin (Perloff, 2014). Youth, who are normally in urban poverty, typically are at a higher risk of experiencing internalization of body dissatisfaction. Cultural background is the biggest foundation of how a child perceives his or her body image. African American children typically are reported to have less body dissatisfaction than children of the white or Latino background (Carter, Smith, Bostick & Grant, 2013). Very young children are also impacted by media and what they perceive as a perfect body image. Whether girls are influenced by their favorite fictional television character or pop star, or boys are impacted by their favorite athlete or video game character, each gender is conditioned by society that there is a label to what the ideal body image is supposed to be (Perloff, 2014).

Media often portrays an unrealistic image of a woman’s body. Before body image was effected by the media, women were illustrated as being curvy and voluptuous. As society has changed, the outlook on “beauty” has been described as being “model thin” (Cash, 2004). The sociocultural perspective on body image has emphasized the exposure to media and the impacting message it reveals. Internalization of these misbeliefs, are a concern because of it leading to body dissatisfaction, which is the leading cause to eating disorders (Perloff, 2014). By early or pre-adolescence, over 40% of women classify as being extremely dissatisfied with their body.  In 2011 more than 2,000 women were asked how they felt about their bodies and only 12.2% were found to be satisfied with their physical appearance (Whyte, Newman & Voss, 2016). Women in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, share the same unrealistic conception of “body perfection.” Internalization of ideal female attractiveness is a cultural stereotyped standard that beauty is ubiquitously communicated in contemporary media throughout society (Perloff, 2014).     

For a man’s body image, it is solely focused on a negative influence with the idea that body image is supposed to express masculinity and internalization to social comparison. Men hold onto what media conforms to as a muscular ideal which is the leading cause of aggression (Taylor & Fortaleza, 2016). Men who experience body dissatisfaction often are influenced on how media portrays masculinity. With this, aggression is a concluding effect that media often portray about men and what they are supposed to look and act like (Taylor & Fortaleza, 2016). With body dissatisfaction, there is an assumption that only girls experience Anorexia, but it is also very common in men. By working out an excessive amount and not consuming enough calories, men believe they will achieve the masculine body image that media portrays (Whyte, Newman & Voss, 2016).

In a world where pervasive body images remain, it is important that boys and girls are taught that media occasionally fails to exhibit the realness of a person’s body. A 2016 study expressed that college students, men and women, are twice as likely to be influenced negatively by media, which hinders their view of his or her body image (Whyte, Newman & Voss, 2016). It is the driving force that leads to eating disorders and anxiety that can only be assuaged by intense exercising or dieting. With this unfortunate reality, body image dissatisfaction, which both men and women of all ages experience, is prevalent, predominant, and universal. 

 

References

Cash, T. F. (2004). How Has Body Image Changed? A Cross-Sectional Investigation of College Women and Men From 1983 to 2001. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 72(6), 1081-1089.

Carter, J. S., Smith, S., Bostick, S., & Grant, K. E. (2014). Mediating effects of parent-child relationships and body image in the prediction of internalizing symptoms in urban youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 43(4), 554-67.

Taylor, L. D., & Fortaleza, J. (2016). Media violence and male body image. Psychology Of Men & Masculinity, 17(4), 380-384.

Perloff, R. M. (2014). Social media effects on young women's body image concerns: Theoretical   perspectives and an agenda for research. Sex Roles, 71(11-12), 363-377.

Whyte, C., Newman, L. S., & Voss, D. (2016). A confound-free test of the effects of thin-ideal media images on body satisfaction. Journal Of Social And Clinical Psychology, 35(10), 822-839.