Inayah Huda: Media and its Toxic Effects

Inayah is aged 16 and studying for her A Levels in Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Further Maths. She writes about current affairs that she is interested in, in relation to the local community.

When typing the phrase 'body image' into the Internet search bar, one of the first suggestions to follow up with it is 'media'. This indicates how strongly they are related to each other, with research indicating that exposure to media presents a grave danger amongst adolescent girls in particular, by causing an increase in body dissatisfaction and often displaying women as being subservient and inferior to males. For instance, alarmingly one statistic stated that problems related to eating disorders have increased over 400% since 1970.

Hearing a talk from the RAP (Raising Awareness and Prevention) project recently at my school made me become more aware of the struggles and expectations we, as the youth face having these images of skinny or muscular models being thrown at us all the time. The 2 speakers focused on body image of women in advertisements for clothing and enabled us to have discussions where we critically analysed what the problems were with each one, and more specifically with the way that it portrayed women. It was surprising to actually notice and realise exactly how many different aspects of the adverts gave out the wrong message, and what was even more bizarre was the fact that the majority of us had been oblivious to these "odd" or "offensive" features of the adverts prior to the talk, simply due to them being such common things to see around us nowadays. Moreover they spoke to us about how with the millions of pictures being snapped everyday and being posted on our social media every minute, there's no way that we can really avoid being exposed to such content.

On top of that, the media has not been one to shy away from displaying increasing amounts of pictures, such as those of 'perfectly skinny, tall' models on catwalk, into the faces of young teens, who begin as innocent and naive to this and end up on the other side with a bunch of low self esteem and confidence issues, and a handful of bullying cases to make things even worse. This is due to these young minds being taught from a very young age that it was unacceptable to be anything unlike what the media had portrayed with the 'ideal body'. This indicates that with the growth of technology and growth in the different forms of media, like social media and television to magazines, adverts and even toys, girls are more and more encouraged to be 'pretty and skinny, but not "too skinny"' and boys are expected to be 'muscular and tall'.

A huge proportion of young women definitely feel that the media puts some form of pressure to have the perfectly shaped body with models in magazines having a major influence of their concept of what the perfect body looks like. Those with perfectionist tendencies frequently compare themselves to others increasing the risk of developing a more negative perception of their body. These photos of their online 'friends' whether it be on Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr are so easily accessible with this development in technology, and can make children as young as 10, 11 or even younger start to become disappointed in the way that they live their own life and the way they dress and look, as well as popularity, and lead to even more disconcerting issues such as eating/mental disorders from a very early age affecting their outlook on the rest of their life, and making them more critical not only towards themselves but eventually towards others. Moreover it will be likely to lead to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and possibly depression. This causes the vulnerable young person to target a single minuscule flaw, which eventually grows into an endless list of every imperfection in their body, from a small pimple on the forehead to their height and weight, in order to reach an unrealistic nonexistent body image.

However, unfortunately many of our youth are little aware that these 'selfies' and other photos taken of models and even their friends, have undergone a long, complex process of being retaken over a hundred times to get that one 'perfect' shot in a specific lighting and angle, then through the time consuming editing, cropping, filtering, re-editing processes with even photoshopping/ airbrushing being taken to the extremes in many cases. So clearly what these young naive minds see online is in reality nothing like that level of perfection at all. They are merely artificial images of absolute unattainable and nonexistent 'beauty'.