By: Genevieve Mazzeo
Have you ever been on social media and wished you looked like the person on your screen? Well, just about everyone else who uses social media probably has at one point too.
From the beginning of social media and digital advertising, we have continued to see unrealistic and almost impossible body shapes/types being promoted by various fashion brands and companies. With social media technology growing exponentially in the past decade, so did the technology for photoshop. Being a part of the Gen Z social media generation myself, I know how often brands and influencers would and still promote completely false conceptions of what the female body should look like.
According to a YouGov Body Image Study done in 2021, about half of Americans (51%) say they feel pressured to have a certain body type, and three-quarters of US adults (76%) say that the media promotes an unattainable body image for women. Media is extremely influential in today’s society, but so are the influencers who also use social media.
Some of the biggest influencers on social media regarding fashion and body image are the Kardashian/Jenner family. Kim in particular is one of the first big influencers in social media history and has continued to make a very-well known brand for herself and her family. Already known for changing her body to look a specific way, she and her family have been known for using photoshop and editing to change their body image and overall appearance. For example when Khloe Kardashian posted this selfie on Instagram where people commented that she was pretty much unrecognizable.
While the conversations around body image and photoshopping on social media have improved greatly, we continue to see brands and influencers promote unnatural body images and unhealthy eating habits. Just this past week at the infamous Met Gala event, Kim told Vogue that she lost 16 pounds in under a month to fit in the iconic Marilyn Monroe dress she wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President Kennedy in 1962. Following the event, she posted on her Instagram story that she was “starving” and had not eaten carbs or sugar in a month.
Even if she didn’t mean to encourage unhealthy weight loss, millions of people and young girls follow her account and look up to her. She is considered a “role model” to many of her followers and she explicitly said she took drastic and unhealthy measures to lose weight. It is not breaking news that influencers are considered role models because of their social media presence and that they are extremely influential on younger generations. Kim knows how influential her words are and going on social media saying she basically starved herself is so wrong on so many levels. It even got actress Lili Reinhart upset to the point where she ranted on her Instagram story and began with saying: “So wrong. So fucked on 100s of levels.”
Influencers at times do not realize the power and influence their words and actions can have over their followers and fans. Kim spoke out about how she was going to the sauna in sweatsuits and not eating any carbs or sugar for almost a month. This kind of behavior and the way she spoke out about the topic can negatively affect so many of the millions of people who follow her and experience any kind of body image issues or eating disorders. What she said can even be triggering for those recovering from an eating disorder. Overall, influencers need to understand how their words and actions on social media can affect millions of people. Being more conscious and not speaking about these topics is the first step we can take to help the body image issues social media has caused in today’s society.
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