In Today’s Social Media Landscape, Body Positivity Is Needed Now More Than Ever

Women in today’s society are constantly bombarded with images of a socially created standard of beauty. These unattainable portrayals are not new developments. For decades, women have been taught to idealize a ‘perfect’ body shape and strive to achieve it through television, magazines, and ads by dedicating a significant portion of their time towards watching their figures. When these beauty standards are internalized, women no longer only look towards media examples but also begin to critique how their own bodies do not live up to these carefully polished and heavily edited images. According to Dove’s The Real Truth About Beauty: Revisited study, “More than half of women globally (54%) agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic”.

On some social media platforms, these self-imposed judgments are only heightened by the frequency at which young women see these unattainable images. Instagram, in particular, seems to have become the main social media platform through which these messages of an ideal body shape for women to aspire to achieve are disseminated through. Scrolling through the posts of celebrities, bloggers, and influencers, reveals how the many images promoting the benefits of weight-loss, appetite suppressant, and appearance ‘improving’ vitamins have become so commonplace that the required #ad mention in the captions doesn’t have much of an effect on the implications of the photos. These types of sponsored posts encourage the tired notions that women should be actively attempting to alter their bodies in order to fit into the limited definitions of beauty and hope to look like the often photoshopped influencers modeling in the posts.

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Just as common among many young Instagram users is the practice of spending a decent amount of time on finding an appealing background and posing their bodies just right to take the ‘perfect’ carefree picture that will earn them the most likes. The process doesn’t stop here, of course. After the picture’s taken the right filter is sorted through and a caption that’s clever, and definitely not basic, is written. Then the picture is often sent out to friends for approval and posted at the best time of day to again maximize the number of likes. Not to be hypocritical of wanting to look good on your own social media page – I’ll readily admit that I’m just as guilty as anyone else of doing exactly this more than once and that having impromptu photoshoots with your friends can be fun every now and then.

But when we become overly judgmental of our own images based on the filtered examples set by celebrities or influencers, we just may be normalizing a new unrealistic standard of beauty for young women to keep up with.

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Instagram has in recent years become sort of a catalyst for hyper-focusing on and critiquing one’s own image that they project to others. In a 2018 Pew Research Center study of teens’ social media habits, two of the most common negative experiences that young adults reported on their social media pages were pressure to create posts that make them look good (43%) and wanting to get a large number of likes and comments (37%). However, it is also important to note that the participants in Pew’s study also reported multiple examples of how social media usage has been beneficial, with 69% saying that it makes them feel more confident and 68% saying that social media helps them feel like they have a support system.

The need for more content online that supports rather than compares users, especially when it comes to body positivity, has recently gained momentum with several notable accounts gaining attention. Actress Jameela Jamil’s Instagram account turned social movement I Weigh aims to focus on the values that make up a person’s identity that are far more important than how their body looks. In this interactive community, users can submit their own photos to the account and measure their ‘weight’ in personal qualities and accomplishments. Jamil also often posts insights into the unrealistic celebrity beauty culture, ranging from how economic privilege effects appearances to the need for celebrities to be held accountable for using their large platforms to send toxic messages to their followers about sponsored weight loss products.

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Additionally hoping to change the narrative of social media and body image is the account Don’t Call Me Pretty, which began as a social media movement through its hashtag and transformed into an organization striving to empower women. This Instagram page focuses on ways to uplift and support women’s worth aside from just concentrating on their looks, and calls attention to negative impacts that attempting to conform to beauty expectations have on a person’s well-being. Don’t Call Me Pretty also specifically discusses the importance of body positivity through its posts.

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Certain practices that are currently popular among social media users tap into this habit of self-criticism that many young women have been socially taught to do. Encouraging body positivity on this platform can help change the limited standards of beauty and work to create a narrative where their appearance is not the only quality women are valued for. The relationship that an individual has with their body can be personal, influential, and lifelong. Developing positive attitudes towards your own is a meaningful process, and a key step to that is accepting one’s appearance recognizing their own worth.

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