National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: Social Media and Society's Unattainable Standards

It’s not a surprise that social media has impacted the way we feel and think about ourselves.  Studies have found that there is a direct correlation between the amount of time spent on social media, and body dissatisfaction.  A Time magazine article even refers to social media as a toxic mirror, one where it’s impossible to be satisfied with the way you look.

Everyone knows that images of models are typically photoshopped, and not an accurate representation of what an average woman looks like.  However, with billions of images uploaded monthly to photo-sharing sites like Facebook and Instagram, the line between what’s real and what’s fake is getting harder to find.  This is especially true when it comes to our peer’s photos.  Apps like Facetune and Perfect 360 can completely change someone’s appearance. We now have the ability to make alterations to our body at the press of a button, and then share this filtered image to hundreds of followers.  We surveyed women ages 18-26 about their experience using photo editing apps, and their thoughts on society’s beauty standards. Here are the results.  

  • 57.5% of participants said they use photo editing apps to alter their appearance.  
  • 20% said they edit blemishes
  • 8% said they edit their weight
  • 66% post these edited photos on social media
  • 74% say editing photos makes them feel better about themselves, while 66% say they did it because they care about what other people think of them.  
  • 25% say they do it to conform to society’s standards of beauty.  

Below are participant’s definitions of beauty.  For privacy purposes, the participants of the study will remain anonymous.

“You need to be skinny, but thick in all the right places (lips, hips, butt, boobs) which is nearly impossible when you're trying to get a slim figure. Society's beauty standards match what celebrity/model's Instagram pictures look like. AKA UNATTAINABLE

"It sounds super cliche, but it’s so true that people feel the need to make a picture perfect life on Instagram and social media. Even though I don’t edit every picture and I only do it when I really personally feel self conscious about something, I always deep down feel a little sad. I think beauty standards have gone from being the prettiest and the skinniest to who can project the more perfect life to the world (if that makes sense). Are you posting pictures enough pictures of you going out so you seem fun? Are you pictures artsy enough so that people think you’re cool? I feel like beauty standards have gone much farther than just surface level, especially on social media, people are now judging you on your personality/lifestyle based on how your photos are edited and what you’re posting about/how often."

"We’re sort of constantly in a chokehold: knowing that we shouldn’t need the approval of others, but still hungering for it anyway. For some reason, looking the best we can also translates to—or creates the façade that we are—feeling the best we can. But humans are more complicated than that; how we physically feel couldn’t possibly automatically add up to how we emotionally feel as well. These are things than need to be built up over time, and with today’s standards, it’s all too easy to be torn down."

"Unrealistic and unattainable. As a society we’ve moved so far from real beauty and appreciating our bodies for what they are."

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