Does Media Influence Body Image? The idea that media has a direct impact on body image, especially in adolescent females, is probably not new to many people… however there is some debate on the validity of that statement.
A study by Texas A&M International University actually suggests that peers may influence body image issues, not television or advertisements.
An opposing argument from research conducted by Kasey Serdar focuses on a number of psychical and psychological effects directly related to medias portrayal of ideals.
So what actually influences body image in adolescent females, the media or their peers?
According to the study by Texas A&M IU, TV exposure and social media use did not predict body dissatisfaction… however, body dissatisfaction was strongly related to peer competition. This would suggest that media has no influence on how adolescents view themselves basing self-image solely on peer opinion, which seems a little far-fetched.
After all, what shapes peer opinion? It is unlikely that the portrayal of ideals and perceived “norms” have no impact on peer opinion when it comes to body image in adolescents.
Serdar makes it very clear in her research that sociocultural standards of beauty are present in almost all forms of media, and are constantly imposing an unrealistic, unobtainable ideal upon females. The prevalence of these standards results in women perceiving a standard for normal, that is not really normal at all. This skewed perception then results in a number of psychological and psychical disorders related to poor body image such as anorexia, bulimia, and body dysmorphic disorder.
This recent photo shoot of Kim Kardashian is a perfect example of how images in media can distort body image, especially in young females. Footage of the shoot later aired on Keeping Up With The Kardashian’s where viewers were able to see Kim in her true, unedited glory… however, that image is quite different than the retouched version presented on numerous media platforms.
Another great example of retouching in media is this photograph of actress, Zendaya. Obviously dissatisfied with the manipulated image, she writes in her post “These are the things that make women self conscious, that create the unrealistic ideals of beauty that we have.” Her reaction to the image speaks for its self and reinforces the skewed perception of beauty media projects on viewers.
It is an undeniable reality that media projection of ideals has focused on a specific standard and to say that it has no influence, particularly in adolescents, on body image could not be further from the truth. While peer opinion may have a significant impact on self-image that opinion was in one way or another impacted by images presented in media. This unrealistic idealization and its impact on body image will continue until more inclusive images are the new “norm”.