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Janet C. Hinz

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EN 101

December 8th 2017

Social Media VS. Body Dysmorphia

 

We all have
something that we don’t like about ourselves. Whether its be our nose, our
lips, or the little bit of baby fat on our stomach, but people with Body Dysmorphic
Disorder, also known as BDD, stress and think about their self-perceived or
real imperfections for hours and hours on end. Body dysmorphic disorder is a
serious mental illness as they are unable to control the negative thoughts that
run through their brains, which sometimes causes so much anxiety that they are
forced to miss school, work or avoid social situations. How are we supposed to
prevent body dysmorphia when the society’s idea of a “perfect body” is flaunted
all over social media and people are scared to post a selfie that isn’t perfect?
How can we sit back and watch as body dysmorphia turns into even more harmful
mental illnesses such as anorexia nervosa? And how can we ignore the heartless
cyberbullies who post cruel comments whenever they please just to make people
feel bad about themselves? I strongly believe that social media is a cause of
Body Dysmorphic Disorder in this new technological age because of the
objectification and alteration of people’s bodies, the promotion of eating
disorders, and cyberbullying.

Images in the media have regularly
been depicted as a likely factor in someone developing body image and
self-esteem issues.  If “ideals” of the
perfect appearance are presented consistently through social media, this can
trigger the development of the illness (Anxiety and Depression Association of
America). In recent times the selfie has also emerged onto the social media
scene, a selfie being a photograph taken of oneself and posted on social media.
A recent survey conducted by Addiction.com showed that teens aged 16 to 25
spend on average 16 minutes or seven attempts to take the perfect selfie (Addiction). Dr Alex Clarke, a Clinical psychologist believes
that the education and awareness of BDD in schools needs to improve, she states
that “children need to be taught some ‘media literacy’ to understand that
all the airbrushed images they see aren’t real” (BBC) in order to try and prevent body
dysmorphic disorder, bad self-esteem and the eating disorders that accompany
these issues. Young teens today not only have to put up with the
objectification of famous celebrities or popular socialite’s bodies on social
media, but also their own and those of their friends and family. The media not
only glorifies a slender ideal for women, or a muscular ideal for men, they
strongly apply importance to looks in general by dressing the models in
expensive clothes, high end makeup and jewellery and using photoshop to erase
any imperfection the models may have (Henderson). So, if we are able to teach
young men and women about the objectification and how the media alters one’s
appearance to be “perfect” it could lower the risk of BDD.

Any person who has a social media
account is vulnerable to the damaging social media influences that can affect
their self-esteem, body image, and relationship to food. In fact, according to
the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), anorexia nervosa has the
highest-leading cause of death for females ages 15 to 24, with a death rate
that is 12 times higher than any other cause of death among this age group (Tackett).
Fitness bloggers displaying the small portions they eat, or how often they
exercise each day with a “perfect” gym selfie, are what young men and women
look up to these days. My own sister developed anorexia-nervosa from trying to
be exactly like these fitness “guru’s”. She was looking at these photoshopped,
edited, fake pictures of fitness models and celebrities and wondered why she
didn’t look like them, even though she was already very fit and beautiful. So,
she resorted to over exercising and undereating, to make her “perfect” like
those on social media, but it only made her unhappier. These days there are even
accounts dedicated to the pro-anorexia movements, these websites and accounts
on social media cheer on people with eating disorders and encourage them to
post photos of what they call progress (Tackett). There are even hashtags like;
#thinspiration, #thinspo, and #thinstagram which are used by pro-ana
communities when they post photos of thin celebrities who idolized as an
inspiration for such eating disorders (Tackett). If this isn’t harmful, I don’t
know what is.

Bullying is
also an extremely common cause of body dysmorphia, but it is even more harmful
now that social media is popular. Bullying used to just be at school, or in the
work place, but these days people aren’t safe in their own homes as bullying
has spread to social media, which is known as cyberbullying. According to
StopBullying.Gov cyber bullying “includes sending, posting, or sharing
negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include
sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment
or humiliation” (stopbullying).  Types of
bullying like fat shaming and body shaming, can have a harmful influence on
one’s body image and can lead to very poor self-esteem, of which is a symptoms
of body dysmorphic disorder. Cyberbullying not only causes BDD but also
anorexia, bulimia, depression and anxiety.  The cyberbullying research centre conducted a
survey between July and October of 2016 where they asked 5700, 12- 17-year
old’s in high school or middle school, questions about cyberbullying. 17% of
the teens that were surveyed said that they were currently being cyberbullied,
23% percent said that they had recently read or seen mean and hurtful comments
about themselves online (Cyberbullying). Another 40% of students said that they
had been cyberbullied previously (Cyberbullying). The BDD Foundation found that
majority of their patient’s body dysmorphia issues stemmed from cyberbullying
(bddfoundation.org). One of their patient’s cases started in high school, when
the boys on his sports team made fun of his genitals, he claims that after he
was bullied continuously online he “would then spend long periods avoiding
mirrors” because he was disgusted with himself and that his “identity was
caught up in …. physical appearance” (bddfoundation.org). Other cases have been
similar, it starts with one person making fun of a tiny, more than likely
non-existent imperfection, and it causes a whole domino effect of issues.

In the end,
the way that beauty is portrayed on social media is misleading to those who
look up to the famous and popular. Photoshop is being used to erase
imperfections, anorexia and other eating disorders are being encouraged on many
social media platforms and young teens are being cyberbullied every day, and
all of these factors lead to the development of body dysmorphic disorder and
other harmful mental illnesses. These things have become normal Plans and ideas
need to be put in place in order to combat and prevent body dysmorphia before
its too late. Teaching young teens about the way social media depicts the
“perfect” body is a start, but much more needs to be done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Anxiety and
Depression Association of America “Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)” American
Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and
Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (5th Edition) (2013). Washington,
DC. https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/body-dysmorphic-disorder-bdd

Addiction.com
Staff “Selfies and Body Dysmorphic Disorder” (2014) https://www.addiction.com/3434/body-dysmorphic-disorder-selfie/

BBC.com “The
‘ugly truth’ about Body Dysmorphic Disorder” (2015) http://www.bbc.com/news/health-33190297

Tackett, MA.
Britany, “Social Media and Body Image” (2016) Project Know How https://www.projectknow.com/research/social-media-and-body-image/

Henderson
Ph.D., C., Katherine A. “Eating Disorders and the Role of the Media” (2004) US National Library of Medicine https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2533817/

StopBullying.gov
“What is Cyberbullying?” (2017) https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

Cyberbullying.org
“Cyberbullying Victimisation Data” (2016) https://cyberbullying.org/2016-cyberbullying-data

BDD Foundation
“Personal Stories” (2016) http://bddfoundation.org/community/personal-stories/#tim-story

 

 

 

 

 

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