How Is The Media Really Affecting Your Thoughts?
By: Kayla Conn Illustration: Alja Horvat
Like most people, parts of my daily routine consist of sitting in front of a TV, reading magazines, or mindlessly scrolling through my social media feed- anything to momentarily fill my mind when I’m bored or trying to escape my reality. But as a woman, have you ever stopped to wonder what it is that you’ve been filling your mind with? Do you ever wonder why it’s a Victoria Secret commercial that inspires you go to the gym, instead of your own self-love and care you have for your body? Do you ever stop to think, “No, cosmetic commercial, I don’t need your new foundation, because my skin is perfect and I am beautiful without makeup?” No, instead, like most women, we go out and buy it. Thus, buying into this false media charade that says we, as women, are only beautiful if we stick to their insane standards.
Since the early 20th century, mainstream media has been used as a tool to manipulate how we, as women, see ourselves. Our place in society has somehow been decided by formulated makeup ads, designer runway shows, and social media models that are most likely suffering from the same kind of body dysmorphia that we are.
As women, a major portion of television and magazine ads are geared toward our insecurities and “flaws.” There are two parts to this: how we should look and where we belong in society. I can’t speak for all women, but I am tired of feeling brainwashed. I’m tired of trying to keep up. I’m tired of this constant battle I face every day when I turn on my TV, read a magazine, or pick up my phone. A simple answer would be to not watch TV, or read magazines, or have a social media platform, but why should I alter my entire life because I’m living in a society that is still scrutinizing and demeaning women through sexy lingerie ads and cosmetic commercials?
The average American spends over 5 hours a day watching TV- that’s almost two thousand hours a year, and of those two thousand hours, 30 percent of them are spent watching advertisements. So, for two thousand hours every year, you are sitting in front of a television that is subconsciously affecting the way you think about yourself. If it’s not from the show or movie you are watching, it's certainly from the fake tampon commercials that make it look like you can climb Mount Everest on the first day of your period just by using a sports tampon- surely a man was behind this concept.
Magazines are no better. Pages and pages are filled with overly photoshopped and touched up women, which we end up viewing as normal. When in reality, these women don’t even resemble who they naturally look like. Sometimes, it’s not even one single model. They’ll take eyes, ears, or lips from one model and stick it on another just to make the “perfect” woman. Someone needs to tell these people that while they’re in their lab concocting their idea of a “perfect” woman, real women are starving themselves and getting plastic surgery to meet their deranged ideals. We adapt to these lies and fake images. We see them as normal. And that perception has become dangerous to our mental and physical health.
Social media, as great as it can be for spreading awareness for important issues and causes, has become the most advanced form of manipulation. Social media has become a platform to portray only life’s greatest moments. Which makes it all fake, doesn’t it? If I’m only showing you my happy moments, which is probably 30% of my life, aren’t I lying to you? Aren’t I leading you to believe I’m something I’m not? You see, social media has given people the power to portray the parts of their lives they deem acceptable to show off. We see travel adventures, skinny bodies, clear skin, cute outfits, and fake tea ads that guarantee you a flat stomach. Where are the real moments that show us real issues we all face like depression, anxiety, or self-doubt- something that I go through, and most young adults are going through at this very moment?
We have developed an obsession with following these Instagrammers and Youtubers across all social media outlets. We are convinced they live the perfect lives because they have 1.3 million followers, but that number doesn’t guarantee someone's happiness. We don’t know their personal struggles or daily dilemmas. We see what they want us to see. So we have started to look at these pages with envy. We wonder why we aren’t as beautiful- or hell, even as photogenic. Our pictures aren't photoshopped. We don’t have expensive apps that filter our bodies and faces. And we certainly aren’t using $2,000 cameras to take our selfies. But we don’t realize this, we don’t realize those are the differences between us and them.
So we start to wonder why our lives are so boring. We think of ways to make them more eventful and magical. So at this point, the cycle has come full circle and continues to grow larger and larger, because now we have learned how to create our own perfect illusion.
Am I alone in my thinking that a raw portrait of a woman is of greater value than a filtered one? Do you not think a natural image would be more relatable to a person than one that has been meticulously set up?
Not all social media queens are to blame. There are definitely some inspiring beauties such as Kandee Johnson, Desi Perkins, Nikki Tutorials, Kathleen Lights, and Nadia Aboulhosn to name a few. I love how they are reasonably open about their daily struggles, anxieties, and insecurities and embrace them. We are fortunate to have strong, confident women who exemplify honesty in the media world, which has become so incredibly rare. Even celebrities such as Ashley Graham, Winnie Harlow, Chrissy Teigen, Jennifer Lawrence, Tess Holliday, and Lena Dunham, have spoken out about the negative effects that social media, or just media in general, is having on our youth. Some celebrities like Demi Lovato have even started doing “No Makeup Monday” to encourage women to feel confident with their natural beauty- which, personally, I love since I have a "no-makeup every day" Instagram feed (Yay! I'm trendy!)
But with every dozen celebrities who have good intentions of changing the social media game, there are four dozen more who don’t and who like keeping up with the fake façade. And because of that, we are going to continue to have advertising companies’ profit off of our insecurities and I'm not okay with that and you shouldn't be either.
Growing up, I wish someone would have told me that my unique qualities were something to admire about myself, even if I didn't see models look like me in a magazine or on TV. I wish someone would have told me that diversity in this world is magnificent and awe-inspiring. Yes, the women we see in these outlets are beautiful, but that doesn't take away from our own self-worth, our own beauty. We can't keep comparing ourselves to other women. We need to continue to lift each other up and continue to fight this battle against these media outlets that make money in stealing our healthy body image. Steer clear of the negativity, my queens! We are different. We are strong. We are beautiful.