The Media

Where do we get our ideas about bodies and beauty? The list is seemingly endless. We inherit such ideas from our parents, our peers, our teachers and mentors, from our places of worship, our schools, and increasingly from the mass media. In high-tech societies such as ours, there are few settings into which the mass media do not intrude. And even if we are beyond the reach of tvs, iPhones and laptops, we still carry in our minds media messages about appearance and desirability.

It would be overly simplistic to argue that media consumers always accept such messages completely and uncritically. Nor is it reasonable to suggest that the media alone are responsible for eating disorders and body image disturbances. However, systematic research on the topic, especially during the last two decades, suggests that the mass media powerfully influence our perceptions of beauty, our attitudes toward others, and our own self-image.

According to a 2018 article published by NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association), Myers & Biocca (1992) and Irving (1990,1998) have found that exposure to media depictions of thin female models lead women and girls to overestimate their own body size, experience greater dissatisfaction with their own bodies, and report lower self-esteem. NEDA also reports that In a study conducted among elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% are influenced by the body ideal and 47% were convinced by these messages to lose weight (Martin, 2010). Among men, such exposure is correlated with a drive toward muscularity and still promotes body dissatisfaction. It has been proven that those who watch Black-oriented television shows generally have a better relationship with themselves and their body ("Media" 2018).

Last update:  2 April 2021

Ask yourself

The next time you read a fashion magazine or watch a trendy television show, try monitoring how you feel. What kinds of “self talk” do you engage in? (eg. “I wish I could have thighs like that,” “I’ll never lose that last 5 pounds.”)

If reading or watching makes you feel bad about your appearance, why do you think you continue to do so?

Next time you are tempted to read or watch such media, what could you do instead?