What’s even more alarming is that if you click through to some of these photos the captions accompanied read: “I stayed under 500 calories today,” or “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.” Hardly the encouraging words women struggling with self-esteem or body issues need to see.
While people may not be actively seeking out these particular images, a new study by the University of California recently found that they’re still harmful to those who see them, whether they search for them or not.
“Imagine a teenage girl or even a young woman looking for inspiration using terms such as ‘attractive,’ ‘fit,’ or ‘pretty,”’ doctoral candidate Jannath Ghaznavi pointed out to the Daily Mail. “She will likely find images of headless, scantily clad, sexualised women and their body parts.”
“A young woman looking at these images may think that’s what she should look like… That could prompt these girls and women to resort to extreme dieting, excessive exercise, or other harmful behaviours in order to achieve this thin ideal,” she continued.
In terms of different social media platforms, researchers found that Pinterest was the less sexualised and tended to show images that had “a little more muscularity while focusing on some kind of fitness.” Images via Twitter on the other hand were usually cropped to focus on specific body parts such as the torso or legs. What researchers were most concerned about, however, was that Twitter had a younger audience, therefore the images were more likely to leave an impression.
There’s no doubt that social influences play a part in eating disorders, so what’s even more alarming is that according to research conducted by Harvard Medical School, body image impressions can be easily transmitted second hand, so say via a social media feed. “Our study not only showed a second hand effect but demonstrated that this second hand effect is the exposure of interest,” professor Anne Becker told Time.
“Even among those with direct exposure, the harm from the exposure couldn’t be avoided because there may be friends and a social network that can transmit the exposure.”
So, is it time authorities banned certain hashtags or monitored the content that’s available to us on our homepages or feeds? And would this make any difference whatsoever?