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Celebrities and Social Media: Their Impact on Body Image and Mental Health

By Harshita Parmar


A girl, using the name Emily to maintain her anonymity, in her pre-teens had started using Instagram as a way to follow fitness influencers. Years later, now, she is in recovery from an eating disorder because of the unrealistic standards the fitness influencers may have promoted on the social media app. As Emily said, “I felt like my body wasn’t good enough, because even though I did go to the gym a lot, my body still never looked like the bodies of these influencers.” Unfortunately, there are many young women and men out there who may have similar stories simply because in their attempt to achieve their dream body or to resemble a specific celebrity, they resorted to unhealthy methods to achieve their goals. This demonstrates that in today’s age of prevalent social media influences many feel they must compare themselves to celebrities and have begun to change the way they view themselves. Therefore, celebrities and social media can have adverse effects on young audiences.



Potentially, everyone on social media can fall prey to the cycle of negative body imaging which is an issue. In a survey consisting of 227 female university students conducted by Macquarie university, in Sydney, Australia, many females admitted they view their appearance in a negative way when comparing themselves with celebrities and even their peers, while scrolling through Facebook. Women also felt unsatisfactory about themselves after they would post a selfie to their social media account. This concludes that the self-image of an individual is influenced negatively by the way others look on social media. This can be attributed to the fact that individuals feel they do not ‘match’ the standards of celebrities or their peers, including beauty standards such as perfectly flat stomachs, and long, slim legs and arms.




Additionally, a youth YMCA did a study in which 62% of 15 to 16 year olds found their standards of physical appearance to be higher as a result of social media. Experts advise celebrities and social media influencers to not post selfies and pictures that are heavily filtered or photoshopped because of the negative effects it has on children and young teens. It is evident that the images of various celebrities we see on social networking sites are not truly representative of reality. Behind those pictures, various other aspects should be considered such as: lighting, posing, makeup, and filters, which are now increasingly popular because they assist celebrities in looking perfect by making them ‘appear’ glamorous in just a few seconds. This issue is becoming more critical as younger age groups of children are being allowed to use smartphones at earlier ages, including as early as 10. This leads to an early exposure to the internet and the negative influences of social media.


Not only pictures, but also comments can affect our body image and mental health. The comments we see on various posts can affect others in the same way as well. Many groups and individuals, such as the press and tabloids, body-shame celebrities. Individuals may start to subconsciously integrate those comments and mentality in their brain while applying it to their bodies, which eventually leads to negative body image and promotes poor mental health.




Fortunately, this awareness has opened the eyes of many social media influencers who now attempt to break the pattern of promoting false ideals and unrealistic beauty standards. These influencers and celebrities, like Alicia Keys, Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, duathlete and triathlete Chris Mosier, and paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden, post unfiltered and unedited pictures which help provide realistic views into the lives of celebrities demonstrating that they are in fact, as imperfect as well. This transparency is essential and provides building blocks that can help break unhealthy patterns that make us perceive bodies in a negative way. Social media can clearly take a toll on our mental health and promote unhealthy negative self-images.



References

Malacoff, Julia. “How Celebrity Social Media Affects Your Mental Health and Body Image | Shape.” Shape Magazine, 1 May 2019, https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/celebrity-social-media-affects-mental-health-body-image


Oakes, Kelly. “The complicated truth about social media and body image.” BBC, 12 March 2019, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190311-how-social-media-affects-body-image


Parveen, Nazia. “Social media and celebrity culture 'harming young people.'” The Guardian, 22 July 2018, https://amp.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/jul/23/social-media-and-celebrity-culture-harming-young-people


Busby, Eleanor. “Celebrity selfies fuelling negative body image crisis among children, minister says | The Independent.” The Independent, 21 June 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/social-media-online-celebrities-body-image-selfies-damian-hinds-a8967776.html?amp


Obiora, Ntianu. “The dark side of social media: How unrealistic beauty standards are causing identity issues.” Pulse Nigeria, 8 November 2021, https://www.pulse.ng/lifestyle/beauty-health/the-dark-side-of-social-media-how-unrealistic-beauty-standards-are-causing-identity/hv4tffb


Milmo, Dan, and Clea Skopeliti. “Teenage girls, body image and Instagram's 'perfect storm.'” The Guardian, 18 September 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/sep/18/teenage-girls-body-image-and-instagrams-perfect-storm


Creveling, Mallory. “53 Body Positive Influencers You Should Follow.” Verywell Mind, 7 December 2020, https://www.verywellmind.com/body-positive-influencers-4165953


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