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Abigail Fricke

Mrs Stanford

ENG124

6 January 2019

Real>Ideal

Starting at a young age, girls are unknowingly being trained by the media to think a

certain way about their bodies. They’re subjected to unattainable beauty standards and as a

result, they grow up thinking that in order to be seen as “attractive” they must be slim, cut to

perfection and obtain a body type that only five percent of people naturally have (Do Something,

2018). These unrealistic features have ties relating back to types of older media such as

commercials and magazines, yet in today’s society, they are now being forced into the ideal

definition of “beauty” by the use of social media. Originally created in 1997 by Andrew

Weinreich, social media is a term used to describe a collection of online applications such as

Instagram ​and ​Snapchat (​ ​Marengo, 2018).​ These applications were initially used for sharing

information and keeping in touch with friends and family, however, they have recently become a

space of competitiveness and a way for teenage girls to seek validation for the way they look

(​Marengo, 2018).​ This change is due to the fact that celebrity endorsements, photoshop, and

body shaming, have all become an increasingly large part of social media and therefore, cause

teenage girls to have a distorted perception of their self-image and what their body should look

like.

Within this essay, many terms will be used to further explain the reasons why social

media has such a drastic impact on teenage girls and how they feel about their bodies. Social
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media, as previously mentioned is, a collection of websites and applications that enable users to

create and share content or to participate in social networking (​Marengo, 2018).​ Online

applications that fall into the social media category, can have a huge impact on the way teenage

girls feel about their body image. Body image is defined as “how someone sees themselves when

they look in the mirror or when they picture themselves in their mind” (Do Something, 2018). It

encompasses, what someone believes about their own appearance (including their past

memories, assumptions, and generalizations), and how they feel about certain body qualities

such their height, shape, and weight (N.E.D.A, 2018). How teenage girls feel about these

qualities can be influenced by certain social media related characteristics such as celebrity

endorsements, photoshop, and body shaming. Celebrity endorsements relate to a brand or

advertising campaign that involves a well-known person using their fame to help promote a

product or service (Ocampo, 2018). While on social media, certain celebrities are known for

endorsing weight loss products that mislead their followers into thinking that buying and using

them will allow them to have a certain body type. An example of this would be Kylie Jenner

endorsing “Fit Tea”, which is a detox tea that promises weight loss and an increase in energy

(Ocampo, 2018). When teenage girls invest in these products and their desired results don’t

appear, they often resort to the use of photoshop online to change their appearance in a way they

couldn’t do naturally. In normal terms, photoshop is defined as a “software that is extensively

used for raster image editing, graphic design, and digital art.” In this essay, however, it’s used as

an expression to describe how teenage girls can easily alter their bodies online. They can

completely change the way their face, stomach, and overall bodies' look with the touch of finger

and overtime, their conception of what beauty is has become unrealistic (Krawitz, 2016). When
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trying to fix this conception, teenage girls can get a lot of hate in the form of body shamers.

Body shamers are people who “ humiliate someone by making mocking or critical comments

about their body shape or size”. These people and their use of pessimistic words can cause girls

to have an even worse idea of what they see in the mirror every day. Providing fundamental

information on the main social media related contributions to the poor body image within

teenage girls, this paragraph hoped to give an insight into what the rest of this essay will talk

about.

When scrolling through social media applications such as ​Instagram ​and ​Snapchat,

teenage girls can often find themselves looking at an array of different things. A strangers #ootd1,

E!New’s prediction of the 2019 Golden Globes, and even a song from someone’s playlist are all

very likely to pop up in their feeds. Additionally, teenage girls are starting to see more weight

loss and body improvement products within their social media feed due to the increasing

popularity of celebrity endorsements (​Fardouly, 2018).​ Most celebrities have hundreds of

thousands (and sometimes, even millions) of followers with whom they are able to greatly

influence with what they choose to post online. In fact, as stated by “The Telegraph”, one in four

teenagers admits that they are more influenced by celebrities than people they know. Seeing this

as a marketing opportunity, brand owners and advertisers have begun using the reputation of

popular celebrities such as the Kardashian’s and Jenner’s in order to create a positive association

with their brand (Jina, 2018). Doing so leads the large majority of their teenage girl followers to

believe that investing in brands such as “Flat Tummy Co”, “Fit Tea”, and “Sugarbearhair” will

allow them to become beautiful in the eyes of the public and media (Ocampo, 2018). Although

1
A commonly used hashtag on social media to describe someones, “Outfit of the Day”
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this is good for business sales, the idea of true beauty being encapsulated into a drink or a pill is

what causes teenage girls to have a distorted perception of their self-image as well as what their

body should look like. Not only does it disapprove other methods of naturally losing weight, but

it also influences teenage girls into thinking that $19.99 is all it takes to have a body like Kim

Kardashian. Spending that money will ultimately prove to be useless when more often than not,

teenage girls find that their body ends up looking exactly the same, if not worse (Ocampo, 2018).

This can cause an extreme amount of emotions, including the want to invest in another online

resource they believe could possibly transform their bodies in a way “Fit Tea” and “Flat tummy

co.” could not; photoshop.

Defined by “Businessdictionary.com”, photoshop is literally, “an image editing software

developed and manufactured by Adobe Systems Inc.” In today’s society, however, it’s more used

as a broad term to describe the action of “altering (a photographic image) digitally using

image-editing software, in the hopes of becoming seen as more attractive”. Within the layers of

social media platforms such as ​Instagram a​ nd ​Snapchat, ​this type of editing has become

extremely predominant (Krawitz, 2014). Before posting a photo, teenage girls are provided with

a wide variety of skills that show them how to unnaturally alter the way their bodies appear with

the tap of a finger. Noses can be fixed, stomachs can be flattened, and teeth can be whitened, all

in under 2 minutes (Reinhart, 2018). Similar to the products being endorsed by celebrities, this

idea of being able to fix something they don’t like about their body in a record amount of time is

extremely intriguing to teenage girls (Krawitz, 2016). Not only does it make all the other ways of

changing their bodies seem as if they are too hard and time-consuming, but it will also encourage

teenage girls to find things about their body they wish to change. In fact, thirty-one percent of
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teenage girls say they have at least one body part on which they would like to get surgery

(Montague, 2012). Being able to digitally do so without spending a dime, is what seems to

interest a lot of girls. Furthermore, teenage girls can commonly see famous celebrities posting

beautiful body photos, but only after they’ve been altered and put under the speculation of

photoshop. Seeing these distorted and fake images receive hundreds of thousands of likes and

comments online, continues to make teenage girls conception of what natural beauty is

unrealistic (Fardouly, 2018).

Trying to fix this conception is an extremely daunting task and one that many teenage

girls get backlash for doing. This backlash comes in the form of body shaming, otherwise known

as when people “criticize another person based on the shape, size, or appearance of their body”.

Body shaming can range from simple, few word phrases to comments suggesting suicide.

Regardless, teenage girl’s are the ones who most commonly fall victim to it. In fact, a study done

​ hese girls and their bodies


by WCNC shows that 94% of teenage girls have been body shamed.​ T

can be put under speculation anywhere, but as of late, it has become increasingly popular to do

so within social media applications such as ​Instagram a​ nd ​Snapchat. Instagram, ​especially, gives

body shamers a large platform to create, comment, and post their negative opinions about

teenage girls and their bodies online for millions of people to see. Like previously mentioned,

these negative opinions can range from simple, few word phrases like ​“she’d be much prettier if

she were skinnier”​, to ones that suggest suicide comments like ​“If I looked like her, I’d probably

just kill myself”. ​Within days after her sixteenth birthday, one teenage girl even received “​...the

body of a 10-year-old boy. That’s weird.”, ​under a picture she posted on ​Instagram ​(Pham,

​ o matter the degree of harshness, comments such as these greatly influence teenage girls
2017).​ N
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perception of their self-image and what they think their body should look like. Being told by

complete strangers or even sometimes by people that they know, that their body isn’t acceptable

the way it is will cause them to dislike their own body. Furthermore, they will begin to think

“Well, if everyone is saying that, then it must be true” (Donovan, 2016). In some cases, they may

even resort back to some of the things previously mentioned, such as celebrity endorsed weight

loss and body improvement products and photoshop, in the hopes of changing their bodies in a

way that will allow them to fit into the ideal definition of beauty.

Despite the fact that certain social media related factors have been shown to cause

teenage girls to have a distorted perception of their self-image and what their body should look

like, some might argue that a more traditional style media like magazines would be more

influential. Magazines encourage body dissatisfaction with their readers through their use of

images of unrealistic women, as well as dieting and exercise tips. This would prove to be more

influential because when reading and seeing this type of information in person versus online, it

can seem to have a more damaging impact. This is because people who read paper information

rather than online information, start to ‘know’ the provided material more quickly over a passage

of time (Szalavitz, 2012). However, research done by the American Psychological Association

proves that in recent years, less than 20 percent of U.S. teens report reading a magazine daily for

pleasure, while more than 80 percent say they use social media every day (Silwa, 2018).

Additionally, social media is the cheapest type of media, so teenage girls are more prompted to

download its free applications versus spending thirteen dollars on the average magazine

subscription. (Standberry, 2015) So, although certain aspects of magazines can seem to be more

influential, unless more teenage girls invest time and money into a copy of ​Cosmopolitan ​or
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Glamour r​ ather than their phone, social media factors such as celebrity endorsements,

photoshop, and body shaming will always prove to be more significant when it comes to the

issue of poor body image within them.

Now that the main contributors from social media that are propelling poor body image

within teenage girls have been identified, a concrete solution must be put in place in order to

combat the issue behind them. Because of the growing expansion of social media, it would be

near impossible to change every aspect of it that leads to body image issues. So instead, a change

must come from the teenage girls who it directly affects. More often than not, teenage girls are

persuaded to think that this change would be in the form of a physical transformation to their

appearance. The phrase, “​I’d be a lot happier if I just lost ten pounds.”,​ is commonly associated

with this idea. However, a change in their thinking and environment is what’s really needed to

help them to feel better about what they see in the mirror (Ackerman, 2018). This change is one

that must start at a young age, seeing as that is the time when girls can be most influenced by the

things they see and hear. These experiences will contribute to their future body image, whether

that’s positive or negative. To ensure that this change begins, things such as positive commentary

and education on the topic of a healthy body image must be implemented in the lives of young

girls (Ackerman, 2018). Doing so would ensure that they are aware of the fact that not

everything they see online is a reality and that every body is unique, different, and something

that should be celebrated, rather than shamed. Additionally, the brands and celebrities that target

young girls should begin to change the way they market their products. Some celebrities such as

Alicia Keys and Hilary Duff and companies like Target and Aerie have begun doing this by

refusing to have their images photoshopped, going without makeup and even using real, not plus
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size, versions of models and mannequins to advertise their products (Ackerman, 2018).

Following through with these actions would further promote the idea that everyone, no matter

their shape or appearance, is beautiful and acceptable in society. Furthermore, they would also

make the body image issues related to social media, insignificant and a thing of the past.

Although growing up in a society that tells them that looks do not matter, by the time

young girls reach their teenage years, they’re accustomed to thinking that in order to fit into the

ideal definition of beauty, they must be slim, cut to perfection and obtain a body type that only

five percent of people naturally have. Replacing the use of magazines because of their cost and

unpopularity, these ideas are now being implemented into the minds of teenage girls with the use

of social media. Social media applications such as ​Instagram ​and ​Snapchat,​ have factors such as

celebrity endorsements, photoshop, and body shaming that cause teenage girls to have a distorted

perception of their self-image and what their body should look like. Celebrity endorsed products

such as “Flat Tummy Co”, “Fit Tea”, and “Sugarbearhair” commonly mislead teenage girls to

think that using them will allow them to become beautiful in the eyes of the public and media.

When teenage girls invest in these products and their desired results don’t appear, they often

resort to the use of photoshop online to change their appearance in a way they couldn’t do

naturally. With a few minutes and a couple swipes of a finger, any part of a person’s body can be

digitally changed to become less imperfect and this is what seems to be of interest to a lot of

teenage girls. Also, seeing celebrities receive hundreds of thousands of likes and comments on

their photoshopped images throughout social media, continues their conception of what

unrealistic natural beauty and furthers them to want to use photoshop. Trying to fix this

conception is an extremely daunting task and one that many teenage girls get body shamed for
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doing. Body shaming can range from simple, few word phrases to comments suggesting suicide.

These comments can greatly influence teenage girls view of their self-worth and additionally,

cause them to want to use celebrity endorsed products and photoshop to change their bodies in a

way that would allow them to fit into the ideal definition of beauty. All of the issues surrounding

these are ones that can be fixed with the simple act of implementing positive commentary and

education on the topic of a healthy body image into the lives of young girls. Additionally, the

change of the way brands and celebrities that target young girls are marketing their products

greatly help to solve the issue of poor body image. By refusing to have their images

photoshopped, going without makeup and even using real size versions of models and

mannequins to advertise their products, teenage girls are taught that everyone, no matter their

shape or appearance, is beautiful and acceptable in society. Although these solutions are simple,

they are only the start to truly fixing the issue of poor body image within teenage girls. The road

to making these solutions a reality will be one with many stop signs and struggles because of the

large number of preexisting assumptions surrounding the issue. However, there is a final

destination in sight so, it’s important that our society takes this issue head-on and challenges

social media causing poor body image with teenage girls because as Ellen Degeneres says,

“Beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you

are.”

Works Cited
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Ackerman, Courtney. “Positive Body Image: How to Feel Good About Your Body (

Worksheets).” Positive Psychology Program - Your One-Stop PP Resource!, 24 Aug.

2018

Do Something. “11 Facts About Body Image.” DoSomething.org | Volunteer for Social Change,

2018

Donovan, Laura. “Here's What Happens to Girls When They Are Body Shamed at a Young

Age.” ATTN: ATTN: 4 Mar. 2016,

Drinkwater, Kelli. “Enough With the fear of fat.”, ​Ted Talk, ​Ted May. 2016

Fardouly, J., & Holland, E. (2018). Social media is not real life: The effect of attaching

disclaimer-type labels to idealized social media images on women’s body image and

mood. ​New Media & Society,​ ​20(​ 11), 4311–4328.

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Krawitz, Marilyn. “Beauty Is Only Photoshop Deep: Legislating Models’ BMIs ...” Beauty Is

Only Photoshop Deep: Legislating Models’ BMIs and Photoshopping Images, 2016
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Marengo, D., Longobardi, C., Fabris, M. A., & Settanni, M. (2018). Highly-visual social media

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Computers in Human Behavior, 82,​ 63-69.

N.E.D.A. “Body Image.” National Eating Disorders Association, 22 Feb. 2018

Ocampo, Josh. “Do Celeb-Endorsed Lollipops, Detox Teas and Hair Gummies Actually Work?”

Mic, Mic Network Inc., 27 June 2018Itsjoshocampo, Josh Ocampo. “Do Celeb-Endorsed

Lollipops, Detox Teas and Hair Gummies Actually Work?” Mic, Mic Network Inc., 27

June 2018

Pham, Jason. “A 16-Year-Old Model Is Being Body-Shamed for Looking 'Too Skinny' in Her

Instagram Photo.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 22 Sept. 2017

Reinhart, Lili. “If You've Ever Struggled With Body Image, Lili Reinhart Has a Message for

You.” Glamour, Glamour Magazine

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Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 20 Aug. 2018

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Digital Marketing Blog, LYFE Marketing, 7 July 2015

Szalavitz, Maia. “Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read?” Time, Time,

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WCNC Staff. “Study: 94% of Teenage Girls Have Been Body Shamed.” WCNC, WCNC, 2 May

2017