Social Media and Its Impact on Adolescents: Problem Solution Essay

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Based on a study conducted by Anu Meshioye on March 2016, body image is the way an individual perceives himself or herself based on their size, and if they see themselves as attractive based on that perspective. In addition to that, according to the article ‘Social Media and Body Dissatisfaction: Investigating the Attenuating Role of Positive Parent–Adolescent Relationships’ by de Vries, Vossen, and Van der Kolk-van der Boom, body image is an individual’s judgment of their physical appearance. Moreover, in the aforementioned study by Anu Meshioye, negative body image is defined as a kind of body image that is mostly affected by media. This type of body image is defined as a situation wherein an individual does not like how his or her body is, and this can manifest through body hatred or body dissatisfaction. In Liz Frost’s book entitled ‘Young Women and the Body: A Feminist Sociology’, Frost defined the concept of body hatred through an article written in the American Journal of Psychiatry in the year 1984, wherein they claimed to have identified a mental disorder that manifests symptoms that are clearly similar to what a typical adolescent goes through these days. Frost goes on to state that body hatred could be examined using 3 categories namely, eating disorders, self-harming, and body dysmorphic disorder, which is a condition caused by a presumed make-believe defect one sees in their own body.

According to Meshioye’s study, humans have the natural desire to emulate the characteristics of those around them, and this causes people to feel unsatisfied with how they are. Social comparison, which was also brought up in the aforementioned study, is the phenomenon wherein one assesses his or her self-worth in relation to his or her surroundings and how the people around him or her perceive them. In relation to that, a study conducted by Lewallen and Behm-Morawitz, entitled ‘Pinterest or Thinterest?: Social Comparison and Body Image on Social Media’, also used the concept mentioned earlier; the article mentioned that it has been agreed upon by feminist scholars and social science researchers that social media does indeed have the capacity to influence people and make them compare themselves to others and thus try to make themselves similar to what they see in these platforms (in the study’s case, fitness boards on Pinterest were used) in different aspects such as beauty, body, etc. Additionally, based on the interview with Mrs. Angee Aspi, who is a graduate of BS Psychology in Manila Doctors College Philippines and took up an MA in Counseling at the De La Salle University and is currently a guidance counselor at Miriam College High School, media greatly affects adolescents. It influences them to prioritize it (social media) rather than school or work. Moreover, it can cause them to become sleep deprived or refrain from doing physical activities. In addition to that, social media is used by adolescents as a medium to express themselves either anonymously or through their actual identities. When other people who disagree with them start to comment offensive things, it could lead to various negative effects, and this occurrence is connected to the phenomenon that is cyberbullying.

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Although, it is not only through negative comments from other people online that an individual could feel badly about themselves. Another contributor to this would be the unrealistic standards being set by the media. They hire models and celebrities and use various editing software to produce the ‘ideal’ appearance of a person. In relation to this, according to Meshioye’s study, the media shows actors and actresses in such an idealized view and they are portrayed as unrealistic standards of beauty. A work that was mentioned in Meshioye’s research was a meta-analysis that was conducted by Grabe, Hyde, and Ward, entitled ‘The Role of the Media in Body Image Concerns Among Women: A Meta-Analysis of Experimental and Correlational Studies’, which concluded that there is a definite correlation between women’s negative perspective on their bodies and their use of media. According to the study by Grabe, Hyde, and Ward, women started to devote more of their time to making themselves look ‘good’ and there was an increased rate of eating disorders. Still, the idea is that media is a primary contributor to the negative feelings people have toward their bodies. Frost mentions in her book that capitalism exploits the insecurities of consumers for them to buy their products. In fact, around $53.3 billion is earned by the dietary, cosmetics, and esthetic surgery industries together because of this (Wolf, 1991; Frost, 2001). Furthermore, television, a form of media, becomes a medium for individuals to see different people, which, as mentioned previously, humans have a natural tendency to emulate characteristics of those they see, this therefore greatly affects the ideas of a developing child. It is also mentioned that advertisements present an unrealistic promise of luxury or comfort. Moreover, in relation to the idea that media uses advertisements to present unrealistic promises, due to advancements in technology, corporations have to ability to specifically advertise to their target market and use different platforms such as social media to their advantage. Therefore, based on these facts from studies, surveys, and books from professionals in their respective fields, it is acceptable to say that media negatively affects the body image of adolescents through the portrayal of unrealistic standards for aesthetics.

With all the concepts presented, it is important to take note that one should keep in mind why the issue is relevant. Adolescents from different cultures, countries, backgrounds, and ages are affected by this occurrence. A few examples of this phenomenon happening in real life could be seen in three different videos from three channels from the social media platform YouTube. The first video is from a channel called ‘Allure’, wherein they interviewed 18 different girls whose ages ranged from 6-18. The video showed that they all experience having insecurities about themselves and their bodies. The second video is from a channel called ‘Teen Vogue’, they interviewed 5 boys and asked them what their insecurities about their bodies were. The video showed that not only women but also men are affected by the unrealistic standards set by the media and this results in them having negative body images of themselves. The third video is from a channel called TEDx Talks, it was a ted talk by Su-Mei Thompson, CEO of Media Trust and former CEO of Women’s Foundation Hong Kong, and she talked about how her daughter struggled with her body image, and she presented different statistics that showed how media is affecting the body image of women in Hong Kong and other countries. It is an interesting video because it shows not only the problem at hand but also presented some solutions people or institutions have done to address the problem, and Thompson also gave solutions that could help solve the problem. It is important to note that in all of the three videos, a certain idea kept repeating. In the video from Allure, the girls interviewed said that they felt insecure because of the things they see on their social media and from their peers, and they mentioned that they felt jealous of their other friends that fit the idea of what is considered ‘beautiful’. Furthermore, in the video from Teen Vogue, the same ideas were brought up by the guys who were interviewed. The boys said that they felt pressured to fit the idea of what is attractive in a man. They also mentioned that they felt insecure because they do not feel like they fulfilled the concept that society expects them to look and act. Lastly, the TED talk of Su-Mei Thompson mentioned that the media presents unrealistic beauty standards through their advertisements and such. Thompson said that she feels like models that are being hired are setting unrealistic beauty standards, and this is amplified by the use of Photoshop and other editing programs to further increase the standards set by these individuals.

To address the issue of how social media is affecting the body image of adolescents, a policy should be legislated by the government. According to Su-Mei Thompson, governments of countries like France, Jerusalem, etc. have banned the hiring of ‘ultra-thin’ models. Like this policy, a regulation should be passed that further pushes for schools to ensure that teachers teach students the nature of social media or media in general to students, as well as teach them the proper way to use social media. Moreover, schools should implement the policy and work hand in hand with the parents to help in ensuring that the students apply the lessons, even when they are not in class. Lastly, parents should guide their children in what they see online and educate them about the true nature of media while nurturing better relationships with their children. In addition, the students should be taught to become critical about the things they see online to avoid the negative effects these biased promotions and posts could cause, which was proven through the results of a study which showed that college students who took part in an exercise that focused on media analysis were less likely to engage in social comparison. Based on a study conducted by de Vries, Vossen, and van der Kolk-van der Boom, showed results that positive relationships with their mothers lessened the effect of social media on the body image of the participants who were adolescents aged 12 to 19 years old. Moreover, according to an article written by Charlotte Markey, Ph.D., ‘Psychology Today’, the FACE method is effective in helping prevent this phenomenon. The FACE method stands for filtering what they see, also called ‘protective filtering’, which is the act of removing harmful content from what they see. Avoiding means having them refrain from using social media for a certain period and encouraging them to engage in physical activities or any activity outside. Careful of comparisons means having them focus on the good qualities they have and their potential. The parent should also remind the child not to feel upset because they don’t fulfill the standards set by the media and have them see that they are mostly unrealistic. Evaluate means to have them evaluate what they see and to help them understand that what they see isn’t always the entire picture, nor is it the real or actual picture since most of those are edited to fit an ‘idealized representation’.

In conclusion, several research from different experts in their own fields show the same conclusion – media does in fact have the ability to manipulate our ideas of what is attractive, and this, in turn, makes us feel unsatisfied with how we look if we don’t fit the said idea. To be able to lessen its effects on adolescents, the government should legislate a policy that teaches students the true nature of media and how to critically analyze and interpret the things they see online and even offline (television, billboards, magazines, etc.). As for the schools, they should diligently implement the policy of the government and use their ICT classes to ensure that students learn about the ideas mentioned earlier. Moreover, the school should work hand in hand with the parents of the child to ensure that the student is applying what they learn in school, even if they aren’t in school. Lastly, the parents have the most vital role in ensuring that their son or daughter is viewing things appropriately and beneficial for them. Furthermore, they are in charge of helping their child use and interpret the different forms of media around him or her critically and rationally, and while doing this, they would be able to nurture their relationship with their child which is also beneficial for them. Bottomline, we should understand that the main reason why adolescents are negatively influenced by what they see is that they aren’t aware of the true nature of these platforms, the government, their school, and their parents must educate them.

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Social Media and Its Impact on Adolescents: Problem Solution Essay. (2023, October 11). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 16, 2024, from
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