Taken or Created?
Sitting down at the computer scrolling through over one hundred different pictures taken that day, there was a lot of work left to do. It was now time to go through all the images after a two hour photo shoot and pick and choose what pictures to change and enhance. It was now time to put Adobe photo shop into use. To change the lighting, remove pimples, enhance the eyes and whiten teeth. Even for a person who is somewhat involved in the world of digital media, the knowledge of how extensive it can be is still unknown to most. The fact that you can make eyes bigger, change leg sizes and skin tones is beyond what some people can imagine.
All these images that are seen have gone through photo shop and are in common places where they are seen by many different people every day. These digital images are so common, that they have given girls an image in their head of what they should look like. Digital media is playing a devastating role in the lives of teenage girls, fostering unrealistic expectations and self esteem problems. Digital images are not only used for magazines or just celebrities. Over time digital images have made their way into social networking.
It’s used on Facebook, MySpace, Instagram and many others. A major way that teenage girls have been using digital images is on social networking for their profile pictures. Typically, girls tend to manage their profiles more than boys (Couts). This isn’t necessarily a negative thing, but has been shown to not always accurately represent the person creating the profile. “Facebook is a multi-audience identity production site” (Zhao, Gramsmuck and Martin).
People can create only what they want the viewers to see, which is more of who they want to be, rather than who the person truly is (Seidman). This is known as selective self presentation. Due to the fact that selective self presentation has come to existence, it has come to be known that “many young women base self worth off appearance and post more pictures, which is like advertisement” (Couts). Therefore, instead of social networking being a place for people to talk and stay connected, it has become more of a place for teenage girls to post images of themselves to create an ideal person, and also a way for girls to build up self esteem and confidence. Unfortunately, digital images have also been dramatically harmful to the self-esteem in young teen girls. When young girls flip through the T.
V, or scan a magazine they see images of models, models that have perfect skin, thin bodies and long beautiful hair. Consequently, when girls see these images, this is what they believe beautiful and normal is in the world. But rarely do most girls make the connection that these images are digitally manipulated. Digital manipulation causes the unrealistic changes; even these are done on models (Hitchon, Park and Yun). Many young teenage girls all over the world believe that these images are real.
When actually, people create the image they want, and what they create is not actually physically possible (Hitchon, Parks and Yun). An example of images being created to meet what one person has idealized is “In 1994 Mirabella cover morphed five models to create, ironically, ‘The Face of America'” (Hitchon, Park and Yun). This shows just how much change digital manipulation on images can have. The fact that five different models can be taken and morph together to make one person is hard to imagine, and to know that young girls all over the world look at pictures like these and believe that they are real. Furthermore, because many teenage girls believe that images like these are real, this has caused them to have unrealistic expectations of themselves. Beyond the fact that young women and girls are having unrealistic expectations of themselves, this is also having a dramatic affect on the body satisfaction in women.
“Images of ultra thin models are fake, but women are trying to match that” (Hitchon, Park and Yun). Images of models are digitally manipulated to become thinner then what they truly are. After this girls view these images, and believe they are real. This might not seem like a big deal that some magazines are showing ultra thin models, but it is. The most common place that models are seen is on the cover of magazines, and even if it isn’t a model, it is some celebrity that has still been digitally manipulated to become an ideal image.
“Generations of young women do experience anxiety over their weight. Magazines glamorously fuse thinness with beauty” (Hitchon, Park and Yun). Magazines and the images contained are making women feel like beauty is related to being thin and a women’s weight. On top of women getting stressed about these images, young teenage girls then try to proceed to match these images themselves. This has turned out to be a huge dilemma because these images they are trying to become are physically impossible. “Young girls, who aren’t satisfied with their body, are trying to change them, when their body is actually not capable of it” (Heubeck).
This is such a huge problem because teenage girls have these unrealistic expectations of themselves set by the digital images in magazines, which is known to be physically impossible, which leaves teenage girls with unachievable goals. Since teenage girls aren’t physically capable of meeting the unrealistic expectations and goals they have set, their body satisfaction goes down. If body satisfaction decreases, so does self-esteem (Hitchon, Park and Yun). To support that these expectations young girls have for themselves is having an effect on their self esteem is “In an attempt to emulate the countless media images they view, girls often take drastic measures. Many end up with very low self-esteem” (Heubeck). In addition to this, just to prove how big of an effect that digital images and media is having on the self esteem is, “Researchers found that T.
V. programs focused on appearance are swaying the self-esteem of girls as young as five”(Heubeck). The fact that digital media and images are having an effect on girl’s self-esteem as young as five is a sign that there is a problem. If five-year-old girls are having self-esteem problems at the age of five, realistically they will not be in any better place with their body satisfaction or self-esteem in their next years to come. Some of the drastic measures that some women take (quoted from Heubeck above), is they begin to have eating disorders. “Unrealistic expectations of weight for women also noted the increase in eating disorders” (Hitchon, Park and Yun).
Teenage girls are starving themselves to try to become something they see, that doesn’t actually exist, or is even physically possible. Digital manipulation is causing girls to want to be too thin (Hitchon, Park and Yun). In addition to girls wanting to be too thin, an example to show this was a study done on digital manipulation, where girls had the opportunity to digitally manipulate their body size. Each girl whether they were under average in weight, average, or even mildly obese, every girl digitally manipulated their body one to two sizes smaller then what they actually were. In this study they also altered the girls image and then were asked to change it back to what they believed they physically were.
At the end of this experiment, every girl once again altered their body one to two sizes smaller then what they actually were (Sands, Maschette and Armatas). The main problem with girls wanting to be too thin is in actually understanding digital images and media. The world has gone from “taking pictures” to “making pictures” (Strano). Most girls do not have the understanding that the pictures they see have been created and not taken. “The damage is that we soak up the false image of thinness—but not the understanding of the technology that produce the mirage” (Hitchon, Park and Yun). Without this understanding the self-esteem of teenage girls will continue to drop, and will keep affecting the self-esteem of younger and younger girls.
“The problem is that this technology is not well understood among readers who may believe in the veracity of extensively retouched models” (Hitchon, Park and Yun). Without this understanding, teen girls will continue to believe what they see. If we want to fix this problem in the decrease of self-esteem in young girls, there are two solutions. One is to have the people in control of the digital images and media to stop what they are doing, or to help teen girls have an understanding of what is happening. Since it is nearly impossible to have the people in control of magazines to stop what they are doing, the only way we can truly fix this problem is to become educated in digital images. “Often we talk about photographs as if they are traces of reality, less frequently will we acknowledge the shooting and editing practices” (Strano).
If girls can change this mindset of not thinking of how much work, and editing time has been spent on this image, then we will see restoration in the self-esteem of young teen age girls. Experts have indicated that one way to help with this mentality that young women have is by showing what healthy is. Elizabeth Heubeck, author of the article “Helping Girls with Body Image,” has said that “it’s better to show girls what a healthy body image means rather than to tell them.” This makes complete sense, because by visually seeing images of ultra thin models, girl’s self-esteem and body satisfaction went down. This is crucial because most of the time teenage girls are just told that thin isn’t healthy, but never are showed. If this extra step is made to show girls what healthy looks like, it is said that there will be a change from this.
Also, another way to help change the mentality that many teen girls have today is to show how much digital manipulation affects the image. “However, subject’s body satisfaction improved after exposure to the original and the restored ads side by side” (Hitchon, Park and Yun). This just shows that if teenage girls can have an understanding of what they are seeing, then their body satisfaction will go up because they now will have a clear understanding that what they are seeing is not real, which will therefore not cause girls to have unrealistic expectations of themselves. Last, another way that we can help the mentality of teenage girls is by having the people they look up to, not make a big deal about being thin. “Images of models aren’t the only thing causing kids to want to be ‘thin/beautiful’, moms obsessing over losing weight does too.” (Heubeck).
By parents and other groups of people making a big deal out of weight just re-enforces what the younger generation is seeing in the magazines and on the internet ads today. Even though digital media is playing a devastating role on the lives of teenage girls, fostering unrealistic expectations and self-esteem problems, it does not end there. Digital media is not going to leave, it won’t change and it’s not going to get better. But it doesn’t have to end with girls looking at models longing to be like them. It doesn’t have to have a finish line consisting of low self-esteem and no body satisfaction.
The end does not have to contain eating disorders and goals that aren’t achievable. There is a choice to have a better ending, to change from these ends that no one wants. If we make an effort to become educated in this, there will be a finish line with a happy picture. Works Cited Couts, Andrew. “Women Post More Photos On Facebook To Boost Self Esteem. Study Finds.
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