The Effect of the Media on Body Image

We spend most of our day watching television or on social media. With a predominance of the female body, computer programs are played about how their bodies should be, regardless of whether they are men or women, and they are presented to people. Especially advertisements, popular newspapers, television programs and movies allow the dissemination of preformed and idealized body images (Featherstone, 1993: 170). This perception of “ideal body” and “ideal beauty” created by the media can be described as a socio-cultural pressure. In our daily life, we are exposed to a lot of stimuli regarding our appearance. Factors such as store windows, magazines, social media tools, the increase and more accessible plastic surgery operations reach individuals easily and create pressure on their appearance (Tiggemann, 2011). As a result of this pressure, the phenomenon of how a person sees his/her own body, that is, body image, emerges.

Australian Psychiatrist Schilder explained the concept of body image as the “mental image” of an individual against his or her own body (Özgen & Sönmez, 2017). This mental image is not an objective evaluation, but a mental formation (Myers & Biocca, 1992) and is also related to how a person mentally sees himself when he looks in the mirror and how he perceives the shape of his body. Body image is open to change and is constantly under construction, especially in the first ten years of his life (Beyazyüz and Göka, 2011: 375). However, this situation does not end in ten years, the judgment of the individual on his body is formed by his interaction with the environment, and this situation continues throughout his life. There are multiple factors that create body image. These; person’s perception, attitudes, cognitions, feelings and behaviors about the body. In addition to this, there is an ideal body understanding embedded in society. The characteristics of this ideal body are described in the media through certain keywords and concepts and images. For example, being thin, muscular and physical fitness are equated with being young, and the aging body becomes a source of anxiety for the person (Özbolat, 2011). Being fat, looking neglected or getting old are presented as situations to be avoided. The ideal body shapes that are presented and spread may differ from culture to culture. The understanding of beauty and ideal body belonging to a certain culture is internalized by individuals by spreading through various socio-cultural channels and causes satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their own bodies (Tiggeman, 2011). For example, while a woman weighing 30 kilos is considered “ideal beauty” in Asian countries, we can show that women 50 kilos and over are labeled as “ugly” and “fat”.

In many studies on body image of individuals of different genders, it has been revealed that family, friends and media, which constitute sociocultural factors, are effective in people’s decisions to change their bodies (Irving, 1990; Hill & Franklin, 1998; Ricciardeli, et al. 2000; Jones, 2011). Magazines are one of the tools that have a significant impact on women’s body image. In a study conducted on 500 female students aged 11-19 in the United States, 69% of the participants had an ideal body shape in their minds in connection with the people in the magazines, and 47% had a desire to lose weight after seeing these images. observed (Field, et al. 2001). It is also known that young girls feel dissatisfied with their own bodies as a result of comparing their bodies with those of people in fashion/beauty magazines. (Levine and Chapman, 2011).

Recently, television and telephone have taken the place of magazines and newspapers. That’s why studies on television are so important. The reason for this is that shows, news and entertainment programs on television are thought to not only entertain or inform the audience, but also spread ideals about body image (Graydon, 2008). The people on the television are chosen to have the body shape that will spread these ideals. Studies investigating the effects of watching television on body image have concluded that the images presented on television cause individuals to question their body images (Richins, 1991; Myers & Biocca, 1992; Tiggeman & Pickering, 1996; Harrison & Cantor, 1997; Botta, 1999). In particular, a significant relationship was found between watching TV series and music videos and the formation of the ideal of refinement (Tiggemann & Pickering, 1996; Tiggemann, 2006).

Today, one of the tools that most affect the body image of individuals is social media. Recently, the use of social media has become popular due to the prevalence of internet use, ease of access, and facilitation of communication. According to the Global Web Index, the average person spends almost 6 hours a day on the Internet (Kemp, 2018). During this process, people who are constantly exposed to images in a certain pattern begin to compare themselves with these images. On social media, people always share their best, happiest, even idealized self. They choose to share the best parts of their lives with people. But it’s not realistic to be at our best and happiest every day. Photoshop and filters used to make photos better in posts shared on social media also negatively affect our body image. In order to get more likes and praise, people can edit their photos in a way that they are not actually. When people who do not have the body type determined by social media see these manipulated photos, they may start to feel excluded and dislike themselves, thinking that only they do not comply with this norm, that everyone but themselves looks like this. However, the so-called ideal body type is a hollow concept created only by social media. Every person’s body type is unique, and no one is more “ideal” than the other.

Along with today’s media, imposing this perception starts with children. Children’s clothing styles, toys, cartoons or movies they watch from an early age; All of them play an active role in the development of the child, feeding his mind and the way he perceives the world. Later, in the transition from childhood to adolescence, the child reinforces these gains and directs the way of perception in accordance with his development. Especially during adolescence, young people tend to their own body and this perception occupies the minds of young people a lot. His adolescent body is also at war with his own personality; in other words, young people try to impose their new body and personal characteristics, in short, their self, that they see in the mirror. The ideal body perception, which is frequently encountered in both toys and human relations and dialogues, which has been imposed since childhood, creates some schemes about what should be. For example, Barbie dolls played by all girls, and the princesses they watch on television are always of the same type; beautiful, slender body, thin waist, thin wrists, a flat nose like a slide. We always watch good and bad characters in cartoons. Good characters are the “slim bodied” princesses we usually see. Bad characters are ugly, fat, bony noses, big noses. This perception is imposed on people by the media from childhood and children are processed about how obese individuals are. Thus, the idea is reinforced in young girls that they can only be liked if they are beautiful and thin, and that they can even become a good person. As a result of this consolidation from childhood, we see in the news that serial killers or criminals who have harmed people are supported by many people in the society, fan pages are opened, and the right to acquittal is demanded just because they are “handsome” or “beautiful”.

It is certain that the media has a significant impact on body image. So how can we manage to be affected by this situation in the least way? Deleting applications on the phone, not watching TV, not reading magazines are not among the healthy options. First of all, we need to explain to ourselves that the concept of beauty is not in a single pattern. The world is beautiful in its differences, it is a place where every color is present and the colors mix and form a colorful whole. Besides, everyone is unique and unique. Second, remember that you don’t have to make anyone like you. The important thing is that you love and like yourself. Of course, there may be parts of your body that you do not like. But those places you don’t like are what make you who you are, accept yourself as you are and show compassion. Do not forget to remind yourself often that the concept of perfection is not realistic.

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