Body Image and Social Media

Body image doesn’t just happen. It’s influenced by many factors including peers, society and media. In addition to the list there is social media, especially Instagram, which is an outlet for displaying self portraits also known as ‘selfies.’

Social media has made many young men and women very self- conscious about their appearances in public. Both sexes put equal importance on their body image, whether it’s men trying to achieve “Greek God’’ bodies or women trying to imitate the “Victoria Secret Angels.’’ There’s constant pressure to try to look your best and to seek acceptance from the public and your peers in the form of likes, comments and followers .

Professor of sociology Adina Nack has been teaching at California Lutheran University for 11 years. Nack is a social media user and has Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In profiles, but no Instagram account.

“A famous sociologist named Goffman wrote about impression management. He wrote about this in the ‘60s when no social media existed, but he was already conscious of us having ‘frontstage’ and ‘backstage’ lives,” Nack said.

Nack said when we’re frontstage we feel very conscious, and Goffman might say self-conscious, on how others are view us.

“The social media outlets are a new type of frontstage. I think the younger you are the more pressure you’d feel to have these accounts and to constantly monitor the way others see you,” Nack said.

I’ve personally experienced the need to post the perfect selfie. I always made sure it was my good side, and I only posted face shots because I never felt confident to post a head-to-toe shot, especially since I saw pictures of my followers on my feeds with six-pack abs and bulging biceps. I felt I wasn’t allowed to post my body pictures because I didn’t fit the social media norm. I feared being a laughingstock.

Tetteh Canacoo, a junior at Cal Lutheran and a communications major said he is an avid user of social media, frequently checking his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

He said when he looks at pictures of his friends at the beach, he tells himself maybe he should start working out.

“Yeah sometimes when you get a ton of likes, you get super excited. To be honest, I think when you don’t get as many likes as you think you wanted, you think ‘Oh should I delete that picture,’” Canacoo said.

For as long as I can remember, my self -worth depended on the acceptance of my peers and society. I always felt like my social media posts and selfies were a pre-requisite to gain acceptance from everyone. I felt like the validation of my attractiveness was based solely on the number of likes, comments and followers I had on social media, especially Instagram.

“I feel like if you put a picture of yourself and you get zero likes, then it makes you think like that there’s probably something wrong with you,” Canacoo said.

According to the article, “19 times people got body-shamed in 2014” on Buzzfeed, an Ohio female college student said she believes her Instagram account was deleted due to her size.

“Samm Newman’s Instagram account was deleted after she posted a photo of herself in a bra and underwear. Though the company has reinstated her account and apologized for what they said was a mistake, Newman said she believes there’s a double standard on Instagram, which allows thinner women to post similar — or racier — photos and not be penalized at all,” said Sally Tamarkin Buzzfeed writer.

“Before social media, girls and women were socialized to compare themselves to models in magazines or their favorite celebrities. Social media just provides more and different ways of showing women and men who to compare themselves to,” Nack said.

I would constantly compare myself to social media fitness models and I’ve attempted to follow their workout regime and nutrition. I would leave it mid-way and not follow up.

One day I had a moment of self-reflection, and asked myself “Why did I obsess over perfection? I never had a problem with my body as an adolescent. I never wanted a muscular body with a six-pack, so who am I doing this for?”

The week before spring semester of 2015 I deleted all my social media accounts. I’m not going to lie, the first week I had social media withdrawls, but after that I haven’t even thought of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat. I don’t think of competing with anyone in the physical appearance aspect since I’m social media free. I don’t feel guilty after eating anymore, and I feel like my mental health has improved. I truly believe I’m on a path to self-acceptance.

Nack said she has studied body image and eating disorders, and she wants to de-emphasize the importance of appearance. Nack said she tries not to share anything that’s either positive or negative about her own body or fitness level on social media. However, she understands social rewards motivate people to share weight-loss and fitness achievements.

Self-love is very difficult to obtain and retain, especially in relation to body image, so I think it’s important to be as kind to ourselves as we would be to our best friends.

Wais Niazi
Staff Writer
Published March 4th, 2015