Body image is the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception (McShirley, 2015). In our lives today, technology, media in particular, plays a very important role in the decisions we make on a daily as it clearly gives us an overview of how things should be and how we should live our lives.
This has both positive as well as negative impacts on people’s lives. A very good example is that of body image. The media tends to glorify certain body shapes and types while indirectly shaming others. This eventually leads to constantly staring at oneself in the mirror while comparing their body to others. Other signs may also include envying friends’, celebrities, and media personnel. (Ekern, 2012).
The media has made many people become more conscious about their bodies. The media has shown what their ideal body type is, while leaving people to feel as if the average weight is not good enough. (Cardosi, 2006)
Media is clearly an important part of our day-to-day lives. Through the media, we are able to learn about many things happening around the world and be up to date with news, sports, entertainment, etc. According to marketers from the United States, a person spends an average of 669 minutes of their time on media. (EMarketer, 2012). This is a significantly large amount of time. It’s enough for one to be influenced. It’s enough for one to change their views on certain things. In a couple of seconds, it’s very possible for a person to feel negative about their body simply because they only see the slimmer, hourglass figures, the abs on the covers of the magazines and on commercials while their body is nothing close to that. According to an article by glamour, 97 percent of people interviewed admitted to having at least one ‘I hate my body’ moment. ( Shaun Dreisbach, 2011).
Instead of the media being used to spread positivity, it’s giving many people unnecessary pressure. The pressure may lead to making drastic lifestyle changes just to fit in. Just to get more likes on their social media posts, to get the attention given to other celebrities. Even in Kenya, many celebrities have undergone dangerous procedures such as skin lightening which has led to more problems than they had in the beginning. The ingredients in the ointments, creams, oils used contain toxic substances that are harmful to our bodies and may even lead to the generation of cancerous cells.
The media should be able to give importance to every single body shape whether tall, short, skinny, big, dark or light-skinned. It shouldn’t matter. The main message that should be spread is that people look good no matter their differences and they should shed light on the fact that we can all look the same as we are all created in a unique manner.
Statement of the Problem
In today’s day and age, more and more individuals are changing their perspectives to match that of the media’s current ideals. (Bartleby, 2018). The compulsion to be thin and perfect is all too relatable. Many women struggle with this dissatisfaction on a daily basis. People are feeling ashamed, guilty, and discouraged about their bodies (Cash & Smolak, 2012, p.102). The main purpose is to ensure the media stops glorifying certain body types and to encourage everyone to love their own body, no matter how different.
We all have an idea in our heads of what beauty should be. Many believe that for you to be beautiful, you have to be light-skinned, have a certain body type for the ladies, broad hips, tiny waist, and for the males, you have to be well built. The media has really concentrated on this and it has had a negative impact on how people view their bodies. According to an article published by Medical News Today, ‘We really need to educate young people on how social media use could be making them feel about themselves and how this could even be linked to stringent dieting, eating disorders, or excessive exercise. There are people who may be triggered by social media and who are especially vulnerable (Mills, 2018).
According to Altabe and Thompson (1996), Heinberg and Thompson (1995), and Fallon (1990), social endorsements found in the media portraying an ideal body have led to body image disturbance in some women, as well as implicated the development of eating disorders in some women. Furthermore, Heinberg and Thompson (1995) found that females who were exposed to appearance-related media were less satisfied with their body shape than females who were exposed to non-appearance-related images. Women who were less satisfied with their bodies had a lower self-image and lower self-esteem than women who were satisfied with their physical bodies.
This shows the relationship between media and negative body image. These have led to the development of eating disorders e.g. anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, severe cases of anxiety and depression, suicide, isolation, etc. Which in severe cases lead to death. Crandall and Rothblum (Striegel-Moore & Smolak, 2000) studied women and beauty and found that overweight girls and women experience significant social pressure, including teasing about weight, discrimination, and condemnation. This forces people to conform to the beauty standards set out by the media and society.
In response to the problem, the study proposes to bring about educating people on how media use could be making them feel about themselves. To improve the situation, the study will try and change the media to cover all body types and not only focus on the models. This will help people of all shapes and sizes to love and be comfortable in their own bodies.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study was to show the impacts of the media on how people view their bodies and how they feel about themselves. Stice and Shaw (1994) stated that one of the strongest transmitters of the pressure to look like the thin ideal may well be the mass media.
- What is media influence and how does it affect decisions made on a daily?
- What is body image and how does it influence our lives
- What is the relationship between the media and body image?
- What are the challenges associated with body image and how can the media change to ensure positive body image?
Justification of the study.
Many studies have examined and tested the relationship between body image and the media in various forms such as magazine and television advertisements. However, not many have studied the impact of the media on body image. The effects are worth raising awareness on and it’s about time the media does something about glorifying certain body shapes and sizes.
A study was carried out in the US on the influence of social media in particular, Pinterest, and it proved that people who follow fitness boards on Pinterest are more likely to engage in intense weight loss behaviors. What many individuals fail to comprehend is that the way people present themselves online is not always similar to their real lives because people hardly share the bad things about their lives on social media (Lewallen&Behm-Morawitz, 2016).
This study proposes to examine the relationship between the media in all forms and its impact on how people view their bodies and feel about themselves. Facebook and eating disordered symptomology in college-aged females. Comparisons to images and thin confederates can lead to increases in body dissatisfaction- images that are prevalent on a social networking site with over 1 billion users (Smith, 2012).
Significance of the study.
This study would be extremely important to the public to let them now that they don’t need to conform to certain standards of beauty glorified by the media.It is also important as it will shed light on the fact that everyone is different in shape and size and it is, therefore, impossible to look completely similar to another person. The results of the study could also help the media notice the negative impact it has brought on body image, and perhaps convince them to change and promote positive body images.
Assumptions of the study
- The method of research will be able to capture all information needed.
- The participants will be able to understand the importance and therefore give completely honest answers.
- The various forms of media used will be representative of the negative impact on body image.
Scope of the study
The study seeks to understand the influence of the media on body image. The scope of this study is limited to Riara University students as it is an institution that offers diversity in terms of background, culture, and beliefs. The answers will therefore vary according to different people’s beliefs and opinions. Students, as well as staff of Riara University, were interviewed. Additionally, information gathered from polls carried out on Instagram was also used.
Definition of terms
Body image -the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.
These feelings can be positive, negative or both, and are influenced by individual and environmental factors. (McShirley, 2015)
Eating disorders-Eating disorders are illnesses in which people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. People with eating disorders typically become preoccupied with food and their body weight. (Parekh, 2017)
Anorexia – Anorexia nervosa is a condition characterized by an abnormal fear of gaining weight, driving people to starve themselves and become dangerously thin. It is more common in females but does occur in males as well. Sometimes a life change or traumatic event may be associated with the development of the illness, or even a desire to excel in sports. ( Medicinenet, 2017)
Bulimia nervosa-An eating disorder characterized by episodes of secretive excessive eating (binge-eating) followed by inappropriate methods of weight control, such as self-induced vomiting (purging), abuse of laxatives and diuretics, or excessive exercise. ( Medicinenet, 2017)
Appearance related attitudes- Attitudes towards one’s physical body appearance, and specifically, “women’s recognition and acceptance of societally sanctioned standards of appearance” (Heinberg, Heinberg, Thompson, & Stormer, 1995, p.81).
Self-harm is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. It’s typically not meant as a suicide attempt. Rather, this type of self-injury is a harmful way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger and frustration. (Mayoclinic, 2018)
This chapter has presented an introduction to the study as well as a look into the impact of media on body image. The statement of the problem has been clearly explained. The questions to aid in the research have been formulated and the purpose of undertaking the research explained. Further, the assumptions, limitations and delimitations, scope of the study, the significance of the study, and the definition of the keywords as they are used in the research have been systematically introduced. The next chapter presents the literature review; the theoretical framework, empirical literature, and the conceptual framework.