Has our selfie obsession exacerbated women’s body image disorders?
Millennials, who are said to follow Generation X, aren’t called the “selfie-generation” for nothing. But has all the pouting, posing, sexting and twerking – often in a bikini – helped or hindered our body confidence?
I find it a fascinating topic: call me a dinosaur (I am Gen-X), but I’m always a little dismayed and mystified when I see someone I admire – friends included – constantly posting selfies of themselves in a bikini on Twitter or Instagram, for example.
I love looking at beautiful bodies – who doesn’t? – but is this where we are in 2015 that women have to be seen to be posting near-naked pics of themselves via social media in order to be considered successful or desirable?
Unless you’re body is your business, ala a model, why do women need to do it? Is it the psychological buzz of garnering “likes”? Do people really need ego boosts and validation, mostly from perfect strangers, via social media that badly?
A 20-something woman I follow on Instagram, who recently launched her own business, recently posted endless pics of herself reclining on a bed, clad only in skimpy lingerie. Erm, why?!
Does popularity via social media mean more to millennials than possessing class, style, grace and good taste?
And how can self-proclaimed positive body image commentators reconcile themselves with the fact that they repeatedly post pictures themselves in little more than a bikini on social media?
Questions, questions…For answers, I consulted Christine Morgan, CEO of the Butterfly Foundation and National Director of The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC).
Christine says the advent of social media has only worsened our body image issues and insecurities.
“Men and women are impacted by a daily barrage of opinions on how they should look, dress and behave. The introduction of social media has only accelerated and intensified these issues, to the extent that sharing images that objectify your physical shape and size is a normal activity on social media,” she says.
“I worry that users of social media platforms have intensified the importance they place on size and shape and that body image anxiety amongst Gen Y and now our millennial generation is at critical levels.
“For Gen Y and millennials, social media is their world, and can provide an unchecked unfiltered environment for those who are promoting ideal body image.
“Young people are never without a mobile device, and are only ever a minute away from checking multiple platforms to stay in touch with their social circles. Currently, we have a detrimental trend of achieving recognition on social media through ‘likes’, or by using more and more gratuitous images to solicit positive feedback from social groups. This is intensifying the need to connect social popularity with adoration of physical shape and size.”
And while social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, could have a far-reaching positive impact on positive body image promotion, this far from the case in reality.
Christine says much more work needs to be done to build online communities of support and resilience for people suffering mental health and social issues. In addition, she says safety practices online are paramount, as is education: teaching teens and young adults that celebrity bodies are “almost unattainable under normal circumstances”.
“Sadly, they [social media platforms] are also used to curate dangerous photos, images and information that can have immediate and devastating impacts on vulnerable people,” she says.
“These images [of celebrities] on social media can be especially dangerous when a vulnerable person uses them as a reference point for their own physical shape and size.
“Selfies can be fun, however they are having an unintended consequence. They have become the lens in which the obsession with ideal body shape and size is now judged. These are infectious by nature, and when used negatively by key influencers can reinforce a person’s negative body image feelings about their own shape, size or appearance.
“These can cause vulnerable individuals with a negative body image to descend even further and lead them to believe that their success or acceptance is dependent on having a particular body shape and size. This type of selfie culture can also increase the fear of being judged by individuals and takes advantage of competitive mentality to drive people to even more destructive behaviours.”
If you need help and support, phone the Butterfly Foundation National Supportline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or visit thebutterflyfoundation.org.au, or email its online support centre via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images, in order, via www.linkedin.com; knote.com; thebaccrag.com and blog.childrens.com.
What do you think? Are selfies going too far?