Manipulated Messages: Unrealistic, edited body images increasingly common on social sites

Social media made it’s undeniable impact as it quickly consumed the lives of modern day generations. According to a survey conducted  amongst 85 CFHS students, a large 52.4 percent admitted to spending one to three hours on social media, and while there, the overwhelming amount of posts surrounding body figure and beauty, shame and comparison falls into the minds of many females and males.

Junior Taya Mahi said, “I follow a few icons on social media. While they normally make me feel good, there are times when I’m feeling a down about myself, and those times seeing beautiful girls on Instagram can be kind of hard when you, yourself, don’t feel beautiful.”

Junior Alexandra Gudgeon said, “The easiest way to lose self-esteem is to look at pictures of Instagram models on social media. It is so quick and simple to pull up the images, yet the damage seeps into the most complex outlets of your life, and it’s so long-lasting.”

Furthering the damage on young social media users, the photos often shared amongst popular icons portray images that seem unattainable and unrealistic.

Mahi said, “Many Instragram models are portraying a body that is unrealistic. Not everyone can be super skinny and have amazing bone structure and confidence. I think it causes girls to workout too much, be anorexic. I think that it causes girls to strive for a body type that is so where near realistic.”

In addition to the large amount of images representing difficult to obtain appearances, young teenagers have been conditioned to prioritize the attention on media.

Amongst students, when asked how important “likes” are on shared photos, 65.9 percent of students responded with moderately important to highly important.

Senior Kayla Vanderwerf said, “Social media has become less of an outlet to share and connect through photos and more of a chance to prove popularity. It’s typical for users to be constantly looking at the ‘like’ count after posting something. Somehow, it has transformed to something so important.”

Adding to the issue and further driving self-destroying acts, phone applications that allow for alteration of pictures have caused social media users to partake in heavy filter using and body morphing or enhancing acts upon photos.

In a survey with 85 respondents, 54 students amongst the high school admitted to using filters to enhance their photos while 22 admitted to using body alternation editing such as teeth whitening, skin darkening, acne erasing and enlargement or inducement of body parts.

Vanderwerf said, “I use filters on my photos, and I find that there is more of an aesthetic drive rather than a physical appearance improvement drive. It starts to go overboard when people are using other applications to change their body and natural parts. The applications are so easy to download and use. It makes you wonder how many people are using them and causing deception.”

Mahi said, “I think that there is a lot of editing that goes on amongst Instagram models. It is interesting because a lot of icons aren’t completely ‘real.’”

Despite the known usage of photo enhancement and editing applications, teenagers who are continuously exposed to social media still face damaging effects to self-esteem after viewing the photos.

In a survey questioning CFHS students in regards to feelings after viewing such photos, many respondents said the constant comparison made them feel damaged or broken.

Gudgeon said, “Almost every social media user is guilty of using some type of editing app on their photos. In addition, there have been so many articles and videos exposing the insane alterations that can be made from the editing apps. Even with this knowledge, we choose to overlook it and continually criticize ourselves.”

Despite the self-esteem damage shown amongst CFHS teenagers, in a survey of 108 respondents, 54 students rated healthy self-esteem as one of the main priorities in their lives.

One of the easiest ways to decrease self-esteem damage caused by social media is to withdraw and focus on one’s current self and surroundings.

Student counselor and women’s leadership adviser Susan Langan said, “You have to limit your time on social media and check your feelings on what you view. If it makes you upset or jealous, you need to do something to make your life better or to appreciate it more. There is a feeling of inadequacy that continues to be there with long-term usage.”

In addition, self-acceptance movements have worked to combat the self-defeating thoughts and body-shaming comments.

Contributing to the self-acceptance movement, many social media users have used applications such as Instagram and Facebook to spread natural beauty and self-love.

Mahi said, “I think that some social media icons have a positive impact. Some who have ‘normal body types’ or stretch marks post about them. It is truly amazing because it seems to humanize them and bodies in general.”

Vanderwerf said, “I love seeing the women who work to empower other women on body-love and positivity. They are the ones who make Instagram and medias alike a positive outlet where acceptance is of most value.”

The only way to completely destroy self-defeating thoughts is to continue the progression toward acceptance.

Langan said, “We have to be more accepting of all, especially of females who are not the skinny-minis or the blondes, the model that everyone thinks you can strive for. We need to be accepting of all different sizes. Society is doing better with portraying women who aren’t the super skinny women. There is a problem with overuse of the skinny shapes and models.We have made progress, but there is a long way to go.”

Overall, as a society and as individuals, Langan said teenagers must remember that the images and bodies portrayed on social media are not always as they seem.

Langan said, “A lot of students who are spending time on social media are thinking, oh, this is what I am striving to look like. You have to do a self-check and remind yourself that people only put out their best looking photos and content.”

Gudgeon said, “With social media, you truly cannot believe everything you see. If you focus on yourself and become your biggest ‘follower’ or ‘supporter,’ you will find that self-love is easier than it seems.”

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