Social Media and the Fight for Body Positivity

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On September 27, 2013, Emma Watson responded to a tweet: “feeling beautiful has nothing to do with what you look like. I promise :)” Watson was one of the main characters of the Harry Potter franchise and has spoken out about many injustices over many social media platforms.

On March 20, 2018, Selena Gomez posted a video on Instagram with the caption: “The beauty myth – an obsession with physical perfection that traps modern woman in an endless cycle of hopelessness, self consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of flawless beauty. I chose to take care of myself because I want to, not to prove anything to anyone. Wind in her sails.”

 

Instagram/Selena Gomez

On July 30, 2018, Chrissy Teigen tweeted: “Instagram is crazy. I think it’s awesome people have killer bodies and are proud to show them off (I really do!!) but I know how hard it can be to forget what (for lack of a better word) regular ol’ bodies look like when everyone looks bonkers amazing.”

On January 4, 2019, Demi Lovato posted a full body picture on Instagram with the caption: “So, I’m insecure about my legs in this picture but I’m posting it because I look so happy and this year I’ve decided I’m letting go of my perfectionism and embracing freedom from self criticism. Learning to love my body the way it is is challenging but life changing.”

Many social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram, are making it easier for body positivity advocates to be heard by those struggling with their body image. Social media has had a positive effect on the way adolescents see themselves throughout the world because seeing people accept themselves fully helps them love themselves. It is important for people on social media to realize the impact they can have when they present themselves to the world without fear of criticism. Social media, while criticized for the negative effects it can have on teenagers, is a platform for many people to express body positivity to adolescents around the world.

…research is increasingly clear that media do indeed contribute and that exposure to and pressure exerted by media increase body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.”

— National Eating Disorders Association

According to a statement by the National Eating Disorders Association in 2012, “research is increasingly clear that media do indeed contribute and that exposure to and pressure exerted by media increase body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.” A 2013 article from Psychology Today argued that “popular media figures appear to play a strong role in promoting unhealthy eating habits that can endanger the health of young people.” But doesn’t this also suggest that media can also promote healthy habits and body positivity? 

YouTube has grown to become one of the largest popular media sources for teenagers over the past few years. It is also a leading platform for body positivity movements; Demi Lovato’s documentary, Simply Complicated, is just one example. In her documentary, Lovato talks about her journey with eating disorders and how bullying contributed to it. She also talks about the beauty standards that existed when she was young and how they affected her confidence. Lovato explains how she looked up to people who were underweight and aspired to look like them. This documentary shows the public so much of her struggle with accepting her body and how she has still not fully overcome that struggle. She is now one of the most well-known body positivity advocates on social media, partially because she does not want adolescents to ever feel the way she did when she was young.

Instagram hashtags, stories, and pictures have played a huge role in our body-positive moment of the past few years. #PerfectlyMe #CelebrateMySize”

Instagram hashtags, stories, and pictures have played a huge role in our body-positive moment of the past few years. #PerfectlyMe and #CelebrateMySize are trending hashtags on Instagram and the pictures that go along with these hashtags are truly inspiring. The #CelebrateMySize campaign continues to grow, as hundreds of thousands of people have shared their pictures radiating confidence. Adolescents who use Instagram are able to see ordinary people who are not afraid to show themselves to the world and encourage others to be confident with who they are. The hashtag #PerfectlyMe was started by Seventeen magazine in conjunction with their Body Confidence Day. Many celebrities and everyday people took to Instagram on October 17, 2017 to celebrate what body positivity means to them.

In April 2018, Demi Lovato posted several pictures on her Instagram story exposing her cellulite, stretch marks, and stomach for all to see. She flaunted all of  her “imperfections” and said “stretch marks and extra fat … and yet I still love myself.” She goes on to say that what people see on Instagram is not always what it seems to be and that people should embrace their real selves. With hundreds of hashtags and millions of pictures evoking confidence and acceptance, teenagers are able to toss aside conventional beauty standards and embrace who they are.

It is up to the young people of the world to continue the trend and raise their voices, not only for body positivity, but for a more positive social media space entirely.”

While people will continue to focus on the reasons why social media can have a bad influence on body positivity, many will remain blind to the good it has been able to do over the years. Social media will always have the ability to impact teenagers in positive ways, especially in the promotion of body positivity. The fight for body positivity will always exist and with social media there will always be voices criticizing modern beauty standards and the detrimental effects they can have on teenagers. It is up to the young people of the world to continue the trend and raise their voices, not only for body positivity, but for a more positive social media space entirely.

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