Body Image, Love Island and Social Media

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By Jonathan Watkins. 

I have a 10-year-old daughter who is not averse to telling me off regularly, however, I was told off last weekend for describing a person we saw on TV as ‘fat’. I was promptly informed by my daughter that she would be told off at school for using this type of description and I could understand the point she was making. On the other end of the scale, my thoughts drifted to the recent series of Love Island and how ITV had apologised for advertising plastic surgery companies during the break. I was shocked that most of these young women, and some of the men, have had plastic surgery costing anywhere between £400 – £12,000! So, what are the rights and wrongs of portraying the “ideal” body image, and does social media have a positive or negative effect?
For as long as I can remember, body image has always been a big issue, especially for women, and increasingly for men too. I recently listened to a debate on Radio 5, hosted by Nicky Campbell, talking about the negative impact of body image and how some people are turning to Plastic surgery for help. They went on to discuss how social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat are causing younger and younger men and women to self-evaluate their body image, with plastic surgery being seen as an easy option to achieve what they are looking for. We are, however, being told – sometimes by the same radio station – that we have an obesity crisis and worry about all the health impactions with it. So what is the truth?
I was able to find statistics from 2014 with regards to Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia, which shows NHS Anorexia admissions were up by 8% from January to October 2014. Unfortunately, of the 2,560 people admitted to the hospital that year, the average ages for females and males were 15 and 13 respectively (HSCIS). The Beats Charity for Anorexia and Bulimia points their finger at different types of social media, suggesting that the 1.6 million sufferers in the UK are due to popular cultural images, social media pressure and irresponsible advertising of skinny models and actors.
I would be oblivious if I was to say that those statistics aren’t shocking and upsetting, but the obesity figures for the same year are shocking too. Of the total UK population, 24.4% of men and 25.1% of women are classed as obese, and 9.3% of reception age children are thought to be obese (HSCIS). In total, obesity is thought to cost the UK £47 billion! This is the second highest health-related issue in the UK.
Do the likes of Love Island cause millions of people to re-evaluate their body image? Well, an interesting article in the Independent suggested that a Harley Street Plastic Surgeons had seen a 200% increase in sales. In fact, due to the popularity of the show affecting income, they had now included a ‘Love Island’ plastic surgery package… So to answer the question – yes! Shows like Love Island and social media, in general, have a huge impact on body image. I believe that body image will always be a contentions topic and quite rightly so, however, I am not sure that getting a nation to re-evaluate their self-image is such a bad thing – considering the epidemic which is obesity. Nonetheless, I do not fail to remind my daughter that the images she sees on posters, TV adverts and social media have most likely been photo-shopped or altered, just as her filtered selfies on Snapchat.
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