The Medias Impact on self Image


The role of mass media, specifically television, magazines and movies, has impacted individual’s self-perception, particularly with regard to body image and esteem. This impact is not discriminatory as it affects men, women and children. Negative self-images are defined as “a way of thinking and feeling about one’s body that negatively influences the person’s self-esteem, body esteem, and body satisfaction” (Barlett, Harris, Smith, Bonds-Raacke, 2005).


While controversy exists over the topic of the media’s influence over people’s image of their bodies and the associated decrease in self-esteem, there seems to be an understood general knowledge that an issue is obvious. “It is generally accepted that the sociocultural model offers the most supported theoretical explanation for our society’s high level of body image disturbance, body dissatisfaction, and the increasing rate of eating disorders among women” (Tiggemann, Pickering, 1996).


Men, women and children often use the images to which they are exposed in the media as standards by which they should measure themselves. Frequently, the images are not realistic or even attainable. “Thus, the reason why the mass media negatively influences self-image is because people will often compare their own body to the image they are viewing (appearance comparison process) or internalize the standards of “beauty” that the stimuli represent (internalization of societal standards)” (Barlett, Vowels, Saucier, 2008). The challenge is even greater when the images that are being designated as a standard are manipulated by photo editing or dolls that have impossible proportions. Studies show that the average size for females in America is 10 or above. Many of the models seen in magazine advertisements are size zero. The emphasis tends to be on appearance and not health.


The concern with this concept of negative self-image boils down to the consequences that follow periods of time of depression and obsession with body image. “Research has shown these negative feelings and thoughts that are obtained from pressure from the mass media are significantly related to engaging in severely negative behaviors, which could lead to later health problems or even death” (Barlett, Vowels, Saucier, 2008). Some of the negative behaviors that has resulted from low self-image or esteem are bulimia, over-dieting and over-exercising.


With the introduction of Barbie, ridicule has run rampant specifically from feminist groups that are up in arms about the impossible figure and proportions of the doll. While many other dolls are made and sold, none have received the spite that The Barbie doll has received. There has also been a connection of low self-esteem of boys after exposure to action figure dolls that display barely-attainable muscularity. Studies report that the negative behaviors that boys show have more to do with over-exercising and the use of steroids. (Radford, 2007).


Impact of mass media on individual self-image is not without critics, skeptics and controversy. Many readers will not research this deeply but, ” despite the widespread acceptance of these beliefs, the underlying assumptions are unsupported and the evidence is tenuous at best. Despite two decades of research, the link between eating disorders and media images has not been established” (Radford, 2007). Many readers and consumers readily believe what is heard without researching topics on their own. When this happens, the possibility that rumors and ideas will spread without substantial investigation or data to backup these ideas increases. Some theorists would suggest that this is the case with regard to the “self-evident” concept of negative impact on self-image from the media.


Other controversies surrounding this topic are that self-image issues are pre-existing and that people who suffer from this challenge would do so with or without media’s influence. Another argument is that the media has not defined “ideal” and that the perception is actually the individual’s own which determines whether the images they see on television or in advertisements are ideal. Another argument is that individuals are generally not dissatisfied with their bodies and that many people who are exposed to the same media do not have the social or psychological issues of those with self-image or esteem challenges. The controversies will continue as the research continues. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that more research is needed.