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Drop-dead (to become) Gorgeous? How Social Media Corrupts our Definition of Body Image

Researchers believe that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are even more harmful than stipulated websites in support of anorexia due to the increased accessibility and wider target audience of as these mediums.

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Anorexia is not photogenic. Instagram
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New Delhi, November 1, 2017 : I have grown up as a conscious kid; hours spent looking at pictures of strangers with perfectly toned bodies have been like an everyday ritual, carried out religiously, day after day. But thankfully, my fascination for the ‘ideal’ body that ruled the internet never materialized and it was not long before I became happy in my own skin.

Years later, I look at my 12 year old sister, who wishes to consume only watermelon juice because that’s what her favorite blogger does too, to maintain her fit body. She is my teenage sister’s ‘#fitspo’, she proudly announces.

Just a young teenager, where is she getting all this information from, you’d wonder.

The answers is; everywhere!

We are all chasing unrealistic expectations when it comes to our body image, courtesy the enormous content we consume over different social media.

Social media has completely radicalized the way we see body image- ourselves and other people, and transformed the way we interact with the larger society.

If analyzed duly,
aren’t we all seeking validation
on the internet at the
expense of a ‘like’?

You can never be sure which side you will be on – messages on social media can spread self-hatred, animosity, encouragement, joy and a myriad of other emotions. It is like this that movements have created not just ripples but waves on the social media; some positive while others more damaging than we are prepared to handle.

People are constantly being bombarded with pictures of the body image that is ‘goals’, the ‘ideal’ body; photos and videos of people dieting and exercise have become a part of mainstream generation, so much so that the hashtag fitspo is one of the most used hashtag of the present times.

This increased proliferation of the ‘ideal’ body image often has people comparing themselves to images of strangers and people online, hoping to be more like them.

We are at a phase of life when
images of strangers’ bodies and lifestyles not only affect but govern our lives-
in ways that may be far beyond
our expectations.

According to a study published in October, it was revealed that an increasing number of people are celebrating extreme thinness on various social media accounts. The research, carried out by researchers at University of Exeter, shed light on the hundreds of users, especially women, who were praising anorexic bodies on Twitter and Instagram under the umbrella term ‘thinspiration’.

The Research

Researchers analyzed 734 images that were posted on Twitter, Instagram and We Heart It with indicative hashtags- #thinspiration, #bonespiration and #fitspiration.

body image
An anorexic model. Pixabay

 

The images that came under the scanner were selfies taken by girls, boasting about their withered bodies by highlighting their protruding collar bones, spine, rib cage and hip bones.

It was revealed that an alarming amount of content online is dedicated to glorifying such shrunken bodies, plagued by eating disorders.

Shockingly, the researchers found that every shared image was complimented alongside proud captions boasting about the calories they had consumed that day, or how they ‘totally rock a thigh gap’.

 

 

The Instagram Effect

I remember being in school when the entire ruckus about a thigh-gap gained momentum. After almost 5 years, I am a 22 year-old adult now, and the world continues to rave about the thigh-gap.

Different eating orders, even umbrella terms like “Pro-Ana” and “Pro-Mia” that were essentially aimed at promoting anorexia and bulimia as an ideal lifestyle choice, are not new. However, the only difference is the dangerously new breeding platform that social media has provided to these hazardous body image campaigns.

Researchers are convinced that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are even more harmful than stipulated websites in support of anorexia due to the increased accessibility and wider target audience of as these mediums.

Not very surprisingly, the Bonespiration movement has now become rampant – easily accessible with hashtags like needtobethin, thinspiration, fitspo, etc, pro-eating disorder and a specifically shrunken body image content drive this campaign on almost all social media platforms.

According to Claire Mysko, spokesperson for the National Eating Disorders Association, “Thinspiration is content that promotes weight loss but often in a way that actively glorifies eating disordered behavior and thoughts.”

#Thinspo and #Fitspo And Eating Disorders

#Thinspo :  The thinspiration or the thinspo movement has an enormous presence with almost all bloggers and models using it as a hashtag in their posts. Although thinspo does not categorically promote eating disorders, it is dominated by images of unrealistically (and dangerously) thin women (and sometimes men), who portray themselves as the ideal body image; an inspiration for people to lose enormous amounts of weight.

#Fitspo : The fitspiration, or fitspo hashtag initially emerged as a counter movement to thinspo by promoting healthy eating and working out culture but it is popularly believed that the movement makes use of equally unrealistic and hence dangerous imagery.

body image
Fitspo can loosely translate to being obsessed with healthy eating and working out. Pixabay

These extreme behaviors foster unhealthy expectations in the minds of individuals who then begin to seek impossible results from their diets and exercise plans to look like the ‘ideal’ bodies that rule the internet.

Various researches are known to have noted that constant exposure to such content psychologically affects users.

According to another study published in January by researchers at University of Adelaide (Australia), it was found that women posting ‘fitspiration’ posts on Instagram are at a greater risk of suffering from eating disorders.

Additionally, anorexia nervosa reports nearly 10 per cent mortality rate, thus being the most dangerous psychological disorder. People who do not die from anorexia can still suffer health effects like loss of bone mass, damage to heart, and withered immune system.

In 2012, Instagram had banned the use of five hashtags “thinspiration”, “imugly”,  “anorexia”, “proana”, and “thighgap”.

However, that did little to no help as propagators of these body image hashtag trends look for alternate spellings or combinations of words that are close to the original and can convey similar meanings. You would be surprised to know that despite the ban, there continue to be more than 1,44,000 posts tagged #bonespo on Instagram to date.

body image
Notice the variations in spelling, following the ban of the hashtag thinspiration. Instagram

Is There No End?

Social media has garnered a lot of criticism for such gregarious body image content that propagates unhealthy behaviors and attitudes, because of which some social media sites have updated their guidelines and instructed users to strictly not post content promoting self-harm in any manner, doing which can lead to dismissal of their accounts. However, how practical is it to monitor the billions of posts that are shared on a daily basis?

While several hashtags like #pro-ana or #pro-mia have been banned by social media vigilantes, several users continue to post #thinspiration content with new hashtags that haven’t been recognized by the social media police.

Certainly, this has emerged as an online epidemic, now beyond the realm and control of social media.

Approach to Recovery

Every coin as a flip side.

Social media platforms also combine pro-recovery groups that make use of hashtags that people seeking a way out search for.

“It is like an intervention”.

– Claire Mysko,
                     director of programs,
the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), USA

Individuals seeking recovery from an unhealthy lifestyle or anorexia can connect with people who have been affected by similar notions of an unhealthy body image and eating disorders and receive comments of encouragement from all over the world – the warmth and the support are literally like getting a virtual hug.

Instagram has also now installed a filter that offers support every time a user searcher for similar dangerous words like anorexia.

body image
Support filter on Instagram. Instagram

~  NewsGram supports all things healthy.  

We urge you to go online and have a look yourself at all the ‘thinspiration’ posts. They tend to glamorize anorexia and promote frail models and starvation, ignoring their health and well being.

Anorexia is not photogenic.

Anorexia is not glamorous. Not from the outside, definitely not from the inside.

 

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Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Swara Bhaskar Feels That Social Media Must Have Civil Conduct

Swara, who featured in web series "It's Not That Simple", said: "I am doing very interesting work in the web space. I am very excited. I think the web space is a new space

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Swara Bhaskar
We should have a civil conduct on social media: Swara. flickr

Known for speaking her mind, actress Swara Bhasker, who has often been a victim of trolling and online bullying, says like any other public sphere, social media should also have a civil conduct.

Asked if social media bullying bothers her, Swara told IANS here: “It used to bother me in the beginning when it happened and I felt very hurt. I felt it was very unjust… Then I realised life is unjust. They are not doing it out of a sense of justice, but doing it from a place of viciousness, hatred or genuine malintent. So what would you do about that? They have no identity. I became inured to it.”

Swara added that “social media is a virtual public sphere and like other public spaces we should have a civil conduct on social media. It is a virtual public space”.

The 30-year-old made her debut in filmdom in 2010 with “Madholal Keep Walking”. She was then seen in “Raanjhanaa”, “Tanu Weds Manu”, “Tanu Weds Manu Returns”, “Nil Battey Sannata”, “Anaarkali of Aarah”, “Prem Ratan Dhan Payo” and “Veere Di Wedding”.

Talking about the kind of work she wants to do now, Swara said: “I am at a strange point… because after ‘Nil Battey Sannata’, ‘Anarkali’ and ‘Veere Di Wedding’, I am like ‘What should my next script be?’ I don’t know how to up that because I feel the standards have become too high for scripts. I have not signed a film after ‘Veere Di Wedding’.”

Swara Bhaskar-starrer “Nil Battey Sannata”, which portrays an account of a single parent acting as a residential guarantee that her little girl gets great instruction, is having a decent keep running in the cinema world.
A look from Swara Bhaskar-starrer “Nil Battey Sannata”, which portrays an account of a single parent acting as a residential guarantee that her little girl gets great instruction. Flickr

Over her nine-year-journey in Bollywood, Swara has essayed relatable characters like Chanda from “Nil Battey Sannata” or Bindiya from “Raanjhanaa”.

“I have been very lucky also with the kind of roles I have been given or that I have landed even if they have been in the supporting category or protagonist roles…. I can’t control what I am offered but I can control what I choose. So, I am very careful of what I choose.”

The actress said she is “dying” to do the movies based on dancing around the trees “but now the dancing around the trees in Switzerland is not happening. So, I feel like I am 20 years late in the industry”.

Does she aspire to do something more?

“There is a lot of stuff I still want to do and I hope that I am able to do that in whatever I do next. I think as an artiste, you can never be satisfied because satisfaction means the beginning of the death of an actor. I don’t want to be satisfied. I hope that my ambition always stays unsatiated,” she added.

Also Read- Auction Of Stephen Hawking’s Belongings Will Take Place At Christie’s

So what’s next?

Swara, who featured in web series “It’s Not That Simple”, said: “I am doing very interesting work in the web space. I am very excited. I think the web space is a new space. It’s offering a lot of exciting and new work and I am holding on to my time for films because I want the next one to be very special.” (IANS)