The Media’s Unhealthy Influence on Body Image
I read a blog about the media’s influence the other day. The writer stated that because of today’s technology (particularly the Internet), most (if not all) people have access to some form of media, be it television, magazines, or websites. As a result, she stated, people are vulnerable to the influence that media inevitably brings. In my opinion, the media may have an unhealthy influence on body image. In this composition, I will talk about the ways the media may influence how children, teenagers, and adults look at their bodies. Maybe you will think about this the next time you watch your favorite ad for Botox on television.
Children may be influenced in how they look at their bodies. Reuters Health wrote about a study done on fifth graders that revealed that these young people felt dissatisfied with their bodies after watching a music video by Britney Spears, or a clip from “Friends.” The same article revealed that girls are becoming weight conscious as young as eight, and that 80% of 9 year olds are on diets. I once knew a mother who wanted to put her newborn on a diet. “Her thighs are too fat.” At that age, their bodies are still growing! This is disturbing, as these young children should be focusing on friendships and schoolwork, instead of worry that their bodies don’t look “good enough.”
Another people group that may be influenced is teenagers. The National Institute on Media and Family reports that young girls are being deluged by media images of skinny models. They also found that 69% of girls said that magazine models influence their idea of a perfect body shape. The danger in this, considering that magazine models are seriously underweight, is that teenage girls will try to lose weight they don’t need to lose through eating disorders. This trend can lead to life-threatening issues, like reduction of bone density and risk for heart failure, as PsychCentral writes. Boys are also bombarded with ideals as companies like Abercrombie and Fitch use sculpted, hairless, and young male models to advertise their clothing. Gordon L. Patzer writes in his book Looks that researchers are observing an alarming increase in young males using obsessive weight training and steroids to bulk up.
The media may also influence adults’ body image. Saatchi and Saatchi, a major advertising network, conducted a poll that found that ads made women fear being unattractive and old. Flip through any magazine, and you will see airbrushed models and celebrities advertising “anti-aging” products that will “miraculously” make you younger. There’s even a perfume that supposedly takes up to 12 years off appearance. David Masci, in “Baby Boomers at Midlife,” expresses concern that many adults are fighting the aging process, rather than “accepting its inevitably with grace and dignity.” Cosmetic surgery is also growing in popularity, says Jane Friedman in “Cosmetic Surgery.” She writes that the craze is creating an unhealthy emphasis on physical appearance. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons says that Americans spent more than 12 billion dollars on procedures to improve their looks in 2004. This included 3 million Botox injections, 300,000 liposuctions, more than 250,000 breast augmentations, and 300,000 rhinoplasties. Surprisingly, about 1 million men had cosmetic surgery in the same year. Unfortunately, the media glosses over the risks of cosmetic surgery (except when graphic pictures of Madonna after plastic surgery are published). The Cosmetic Surgery Times tells that surgery may end in ugliness or death. On top of that, surgery is expensive. The Consumer Guide to Plastic Surgery says that the cost of breast augmentation may vary from 4,000 to 10,000 dollars. That’s money that could be used to take a trip to the Bahamas. You could pay for your child’s college education instead of spending the money on a surgery that just might kill you.
In conclusion, the media’s influence on body image is very detrimental. Children are being encouraged to diet at a very young age–an age when they should be playing and making friends. Teenagers are getting eating disorders because of the stick-thin magazine models. On top of that, many adults fear aging because of the media’s emphasis on youth and physical attractiveness. Along with that, the media does not talk about the dangers of cosmetic surgery. As a result, adults are getting expensive procedures without knowing that the surgery could kill them.