Why Don't I Look Like Her? The Impact of Social Media on Female Body Image (2013)
The purpose of this paper is to understand and criticize the role of social media in the development and/or encouragement of eating disorders, disordered eating, and body dissatisfaction in college-aged women. College women are exceptionally vulnerable to the impact that social media can have on their body image as they develop an outlook on their bodies and accept the developmental changes that occurred during puberty. This paper provides evidence that there is a relationship between the recent surge in disordered eating and high consumption of social media. I examine the ways in which traditional advertising has portrayed women throughout history, as well as analyze the ways in which this depiction of the female ideal has helped shaped society’s perspectives about beauty and increased the rate of disordered eating among college aged females. Further, this analysis assesses the ways in which the thin ideal as portrayed in advertising encourages women to look a certain, unrealistic way. I also consider various social psychological theories to explain how women in society form their perceptions with a combination of what they see in the media as well as what they see in their friends and family. I demonstrate that social networking sites (SNS) have similar effects on young women as advertising and other forms of mass media do. Therefore, I will argue that SNS, as a combination of real life and a personalized form of advertising, can potentially have the same, yet amplified, consequences. Indeed, I argue that the ubiquitous and enduring nature of social media websites result perhaps in a wider and more detrimental impact to the body image concerns of college aged women than advertising or the media generally.