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The Effects of Social Media on Female Perception of Body Image

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Media has changed the way African women look and feel about their bodies. Consequently, this has led them to transform themselves to reach certain body goals. The society standard of how women should look like has led them to develop eating disorders, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. Mass media has further demonstrated the ideal women through leading actresses, clothing catalogues, fashion models and modelling pageant shows. This has numerous effects on African women.

This essay will discuss further on media being the influence to the female perception of body image in Africa. BODYBody image in women is influenced as media, particularly social media continues to play an integral role in the perception of body image. Perlof (2014) is of the view that social media is not restricted to helping women discover beauty standard and cultural perspectives of womanhood, but it may contribute to harsh condition of eating disorder. Social media are interactive, web based platforms that allow users to create and distribute content (Stice, 2002).

Firstly, social media promotes thinness among women by making it seem right to them. Many women worldwide are doomed to experiencing an eating disorder at some point in their lives, and the majority of the affected ones are young girls. Teenage girls practice some bodily harmful such diet pills or laxatives (Prieler & Choi, 2014). A lot of health workers blame such behaviours on social media. If young girls spent a lot of time on social media websites like Facebook or Instagram, they are at a greater risk was of developing eating disorders and negative body images (Stice, 2002).

Therefore, the correlation between eating disorders and Facebook or Instagram is a very wide on. Secondly, Wood and Wilson (2003) are of the view that media images have long played a role in the development of eating disorders. The decreasing weight of fashion models, actresses, and beauty pageant contestants contributes to an increased discrepancy between the ideal female weight and the size and proportions of the average woman (Wood & Wilson, 2003). Both the beauty and diet industries flooded women’s magazines, advertisements, and other forms of media with glorified thinness ideals and dramatically emphasized their importance, making many women feel a sense of dissatisfaction with their bodies (Harrison & Cantor, 1997).

Other videos could be advertisement and beauty pageant videos. For the latter, ladies who take part in beauty pageants are always of the same weight and body structure. For girls who want to be models, they may as well want to look like them. Stevens (2009) argued that for advertisements, advertisers are also chosen individual actors who may be chosen for certain body features. Some advertisements also show products that are said to reverse aging and some ladies who may feel that they are aging will buy and use such products.

The role of media in body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and has not changed over the years, despite growing knowledge and awareness of this phenomenon. On the other hand, social media have a more negative impact than other forms of media i. e. traditional media, as it plays a crucial role in the lives of female youth. Young girls have to deal with the objectification of famous women’s bodies in the media, their own bodies, as well as those of their peers, are often subject to objectification through the posting of what has come to be known as “selfies,” a self taken photograph which is the popular one for social media. Moreover, the opinions of other people make the social media users feel uncomfortable with their bodies.

For instance, when friends, family and acquaintances give their opinions regarding someone’s photos, they change the perspective of that person about his/her body. The affected person may try change something about his/her body hoping that they will be more appealing if they do. Not only has the nature of media consumption changed, but the audience has as well. Where female youth were once just exposed to their surrounding peers, they can now readily access the opinions, behaviours and ideals of thousands of people instantly.

There are many online pages, groups, and hashtags that promote thinness in young women. On the other hand, as much as social media is perceived to cause eating disorders in young women, it is also seen as a platform that help women find courage to engage and follow up with treatment. There are several social media groups or pages that are against eating disorders and encourage women to seek for treatment. These social media pages seek to increase their social media presence and activities so that women follow them and get the message. They also have a lot of recovery hashtags that women can share to others for awareness either in their own communities or with friends, families and prospective friends (Stevens, 2009). Females us Instagram as a way to show progress about their recovery and show unity, support and inspiration to others.

Females in recovery post pictures of their bodies revealing their gain in weight and healthy meals. Moreover, others post pictures depicting them overcoming their challenges, fears and most importantly, accomplishment of recovery. Women who utilise Instagram for getting better find comfort in sharing their stories with their communities. However, they remain anonymous by excluding their true identities. On the other hand, some use Instagram as a means of overcoming shame and secrets accompanied by eating disorders. Moreover, celebrity appearance has a strong say on the female perception of body image. A lot of celebrities have strong influence on their followers and thus they mimic them by looking exactly like them. The same celebrities have a lot of followers on social media (twitter, Facebook & Instagram) who keep up with their lives every day. Social media sites present celebrities with the best bodies that their followers want to get. Should social media use celebrities who are happy the way they look, women will find motivation to appear the way they are as well.


To sum up, social media plays a very crucial role in the way women, especially young women are satisfied with the way they look. As a result, females who have access to social media site i. e. Facebook, Instagram, are exposed to different opinions of the ideal woman. The ideal woman is mostly portrayed as thin through leading actresses, models and in advertisements. Consequently, young women end up cutting their diets, leading them to serious eating disorders. Certain Instagram pages have then stood up against the act of promoting thinness and a lot of women are inspired.

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