A recent study published in the Journal Body Image has shed light on how snappy, unattainable beauty ideals showcased on TikTok can detrimentally affect how girls perceive themselves.
The study reveals that even brief exposure to these tantalizingly unrealistic portrayals of physical perfection can lead to negative shifts in body image perception, particularly when the content is presented as raw and untouched.
“Ideal” images on TikTok
Referred to as “appearance-ideal content,” these videos present a distorted image of beauty, often confined to a limited spectrum of long legs, taut stomachs, prominent eyes, luscious lips, and flawless skin. While these standards have persisted over time, the rise of social media has amplified their reach.
Dr Jasmine Fardouly, the senior author of the study from UNSW Science’s School of Psychology, states, “Appearance-ideal content can pressure women to look a certain way that is unrealistic or completely unattainable.”
Shockingly, these pressures begin as early as childhood, with girls as young as six expressing discontentment with their bodies, a yearning for slenderness, and even engaging in dieting behaviours.
The adverse effects of appearance dissatisfaction are far-reaching, casting a shadow over mental well-being. Linked to conditions like depression and even clinical eating disorders, the implications of these distorted beauty standards are alarming.
While the pernicious influence of appearance ideals isn’t confined solely to social media, it finds a fertile ground for proliferation on these platforms.
TikTok & self-image
The study, involving 211 women aged 17 to 28, analyzed the impact of curated images and videos from Instagram and TikTok accounts of young female influencers who epitomize societal standards of beauty. The outcomes were stark – appearance-ideal short-form video content, whether on Instagram or TikTok, elicited negative impacts on appearance satisfaction, emotional well-being, and self-objectification.
Lead author of the study, Jade Gurtala, underscores, “Some evidence suggests image-based content that challenges these beauty ideals and promotes body positivity, body function, and body acceptance help to make social media a less harmful environment for body image.”
As we navigate this digital landscape, the study’s findings beckon the creation of media literacy guides. These educational tools could play a pivotal role in enlightening young women about the potential repercussions of social media consumption on body image and empower them to combat the influence of distorted representations of appearance.
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