“Why Don’t I Look Like Her? The Impact of Social Media on Female Body Image” (2013) Theses by Klein, K/’Self-Gaze’, ‘Gratification’ and ‘Self-Objectification’ Theories

This is working towards objective 1.

I came across Klein, K (2013) thesis titled, “Why Don’t I Look Like Her? The Impact of Social Media on Female Body Image” whilst researching various theories in relation to my working research question and current practice, and happened to be pleasantly surprised by such findings. The thesis covered a specific part of my research question, body image, social media and self perception. I feel my research has led me naturally to focus more on social media than printed publications due to the natural direction of the industries and the chosen platforms of use are becoming more digital overtime due to the use of apps for example, and feel the extracts taken from said thesis summarise theories of the Male Gaze, The Self-Surveying Gaze and Objectification in context, whilst also re-enforcing why social media in this instance can affect our self-perception and body image issues.

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  • Negative mind sets in relation to body image can encourages women to engage in ‘disordered eating’ habits and therefore derive subsequent mental health issues.
  • Poor body image and dissatisfaction are the “best known contributors” eating disorders and disordered eating habits.
  • Negative body image encourages negative and “obsessive behaviours” which are associated with ideals represented in the media in an attempt to fit in. This relates back to Tafjel and Turners’s (1979) Social Identity theory and the idea of in-group and out-group comparative behaviours.

 

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  • Body dissatisfaction is the “experience of negative thoughts and esteem about one’s body” (Dittmar 1) [judging] their body dissatisfaction on “the difference between an ideal body shape/size and perceived own body/shape” (Rumsey 30).

 

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  • As previously noted above, dissatisfaction can be associated with Tafjel and Turners’s (1979) Social Identity theory.
  • Negative feelings towards one’s self-perception is seen as normal across society especially in “young women” whom at the same time may be shaping or forming their identities (Rumsey 455).

 

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  • The “media helps to shape beauty ideals by showing certain body sizes [as…] beautiful and desirable” (Rumsey 217) insinuating that the media is responsible for choosing who and what is seen as the ‘ideal’, shaping and creating unattainable and unmaintainable aspirations for women.

 

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  • The ‘male gaze theory’ allows for women to be seen as objects of “the heterosexual man’s eye (Shields 74)” claiming that it is this awareness which allows for women to adopt different perspectives to see themselves through the eye of the third person, viewing themselves in this way opposed to how they actually see themselves, judging other women in the same vein also – through a male eye. By doing so one is put under constant pressure feeling the “gaze” consciously.

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  • The various representations of the ‘ideal’ which the media promotes can be said to confuse one’s self-perception and the understanding of what the ‘ideal’ is, and therefore what beauty is. This confusion and internalisation can lead to the “self-surveying gaze” which can overwhelm one and therefore will be no longer able to recognise her true perception opposed to her perceived self-perception. This can lead to eating disorders, disordered eating and issues with confidence and self-esteem for example.
  • Social media is said to have the same effects on ones self-perception as the male gaze, due to an internalisation of an ‘ideal image’.
  • Social media, networking and photo sharing can be said to have links with body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and mental illnesses.

 

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The above reflects and supports the comments quoted by Klein, K (2013) as Rumsey in a previous extract .

  • The “media helps to shape beauty ideals by showing certain body sizes [as…] beautiful and desirable” (Rumsey 217) insinuating that the media is responsible for choosing who and what is seen as the ‘ideal’, shaping and creating unattainable and unmaintainable aspirations for women.

 

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  • Ideals have changed overtime due to changing media representations of the ideal woman and shape reflected through magazines, advertising and campaigns, for example.
  • The changing eras can also change ones self-perception with Playboy models from the 80s loving their physiques, to now in 2016 disliking how they looked at the time due to societies altered perceptions of what is ‘perfect’ and what is the ‘ideal’ as this is what they were perceived as at the time of their original modelling success, not only by themselves but by others also.
  • This suggests that culture and social changes over time also can affect our own perceptions and opinions.

 

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  • Shocking facts regarding social media and user activity. For example, it is noted above by ‘Always Connected’ that 90% of 18 to 24 year olds will check messages/notifications on their phones within the first 15 minutes of being awake in the morning.

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  • Photo sharing platforms and photo-led applications allow for users to critique themselves, and the more these platforms/apps are used the more critiquing and self-evaluating may take place, altering ones self-perception due to internalising of a pre-determined ideal.
  • Photos posts on Facebook are 104% more likely to gain interaction than an “average comment post (Wishpond)”

 

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  • 575 photos are ‘liked per second (Wishpond) per day on Instagram alone.
  • 7.3m daily active users (Wishpond) on Instagram alone.
  • 81 comments are made a second (Wishpond) on Instagram alone.

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  • Klein, K (2013) notes that “social media makes social comparisons even more competitive” due to having likes, comments and followers to gage their self-worth and beauty from, in some cases establishing their level of confidence and self-esteem. The higher the number, the better ones self-perception is. The lower the number, the lower the self-esteem.
  • Hong  (340) notes that “perceptions are not shaped exclusively by what profile users disclose about themselves [but also…] based on others’ comments]”, being titled the “warranting principle … judgement from other-generated information is more influential than judgement from self-generated material” stating the same principle as the self-perception theory whereby we value and judge our self-worth and perceptions based on others’ opinions of ourselves opposed to our own thoughts, due to third person perspectives instilled through socio-cultural influences and expectations (Bem 1972).

 

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  • Objectification Theory was coined by Frederickson and Roberts in 1997.
  • This quote, “objectification functions to socialise girls and women to treat themselves as objects to be evaluated based upon appearance” (Roberts and Gettman 17-18) I believe summarises how objectification can damage ones self-perceptions due to being moulded to look a certain way in order to fit in with a certain pre-determined ideal.
  • Objectification of women is prevalent in mass media and can impact them subconsciously allowing for internalisation, evaluation and change.
  • Women are told and taught from a young age that in society one is judged based on appearance often known to reflect class or status for example, reflected in the modern day through uniform or designer clothing for instance. Again this heavily relates back to Tafjel and Turner’s 1979 theory of Social Identity, whilst also resonating with Freud and Lacan’s ‘Mirror Stage’ theory noting that from 18 months one becomes aware of their ‘image’ and subsequent ego.

 

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  • A model by Frederickson, 1997, representing the Objectification theory showcasing how objectification and observation can lead to Self-Objectification and therefore opens up for psychological issues and health risks such as shame, depression and disordered eating. This evidences that being judged on appearance through objectifying ourselves can lead to mental health issues and de-sensitivity from what is real and not real in regard to their own body image and identity. I feel this is often the case with celebrities and bloggers in the media for example whom have been branded with such titles before, however it can be argued that they choose to objectify themselves at first, allowing for doors to be opened for the internalisation of this curated image and received perceptions boosting self-esteem.

 

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  • As touched on above, exposure and Objectification can lead to Self-Objectification due to the “objectifying gaze (Frederickson and Roberts, 176)”. I found the 3 ways noted above by Frederickson and Roberts, in which external gazes such as social media or magazine campaigns for example can cause an internal influence to be extremely interesting and translatable to both my research and my current practice in regards to the message being shared on how these methods and interactions with social media can cause harm, and also to raise awareness on how brands and icons influence us using such noted methods.

 

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  • Created and acknowledged third-person perspectives can affect negative behaviour and body dissatisfaction due to “appearance [becoming of] central import[ance] to self-concept” (Rumsey 100). This can lead to obsessive behaviours and potentially subsequent disordered eating for example.

 

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  • Raacke argues that it is how we use media and social media opposed to the medium being the issue at hand, therefore implying the responsibility of such issues lies with the user and the brand for example. This is noted as the “Gratification Theory”.
  • Hesse-Buber (“The Mass Marketing” 216) argues that “[individuals] choose to expose themselves to the messages being conveyed through the media and how they act upon their chosen interpretations” implying that it again is the user, or brand for example responsible for the messages they convey and therefore the perceptions associated, expected and created.
  • Klein, K (2013) notes that, “[Gratification theory] does not assume a passive audience” but instead is “mediated by women’s sense of their own body image … if they feel good about their bodies, they may not be impacted as much by the thinness message” (Hesse-Buber “The Mass Marketing” 216) implying that it is ultimately the will and understanding of the audience and their interpretation of the visual for instance, opposed to the direct message from the originator. If one is strong willed enough and aware perhaps this exposure and attempted subconscious internalisation will not take effect, however for some objectification and self-objectification can take over unknowingly forcing change and comparative, competitive behaviours and intern gratify themselves and their audiences pre-set expectations.

 

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  • Women often seek to view images which will cause negative emotions and behaviours if one is already subject to internalising an external ideal (Klein, K, 2013).
  • Klein, K (2013) stated in relation to objectification and self-objectification theory that “if a woman is not satisfied with her body, she will typically internalise the thin ideal, compare it to her own body, and then try to change herself as a result of increased negative body image” showcasing how altering perceptions arise and can damage mental health and physical health also through bodily changes to reach such ‘ideal’.

 

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  • Those whom already have low self-esteem or body image confidence issues for example are most likely to be impacted negatively by social comparisons whether be in person, via social media or via magazines for example. (Hesse-Buber, “The Mass Marketing” 217″)

Source:
Klein, K. (2013). Why Don’t I Look Like Her? The Impact of Social Media on Female Body Image. Available: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1749&context=cmc_theses. Last accessed 12th November 2016.