Is the beauty industry hurting us?

Social media setting unrealistic beauty standards


January 30, 2020

/ By / Kolkata

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(picture credit: Penji)

(picture credit: Penji)

The internet has transformed beauty culture from an exclusive domain of models and magazines to the broad, accessible world of social media. In recent years, research shows that more women are saying that they feel beautiful, but at the same time, a vast majority of women feel the pressure to look beautiful.

From ancient times women have always been expected to look and behave a certain way. From Snow White’s famous line “mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all” to comparing their looks to Instagram celebrities, the pressure is ever-present. People are living in a world where modern technology dominates their lives and influences their way of thinking. Young girls begin to internalise the stereotypes and judge themselves by the media’s impossible standard. Both men and women have found themselves battling identity issues due to the unrealistic beauty standards set by what they see on social media. The power that social media and the beauty industry hold in impacting the lives of the younger generation is detrimental and ultimately affects their body image and beauty standards. The beauty industry constantly encourages impossible beauty standard, sun-kissed skin, no acne, shiny hair, well-done nails and gender binaries. Although right now, a lot of people are coming up and saying they feel beautiful but there is also a vast majority that feels the pressure to look perfect always.

The reason why women are calling themselves beautiful more than ever is that they can find this micro-community in the form of influencers on social media that affirm their brand of beauty.

The social media stigma

Consumers now are more informed than they ever have been, but to look at it in another way it’s a constant cycle that ultimately is costing women a big chunk of their paychecks and the space in their mind. There have been studies that show how people feel worse when they compare themselves to peers in social media in comparison to conventional media. Researchers feel that’s because the peers in social media feel more relatable and relevant. Association of Computational Linguistics (ACL), a scientific and professional society for people working on computational problems involving human language, in 2019 analysed the language that writers used to describe men and women in 3.5 million books in English, both non-fiction and fiction. They pulled out two hundred most common adjective that was used to describe men and women and they found, of those words the ones used to describe women were twice as likely to be about their physical appearance or their bodies.

Beauty culture is so much more interesting, approachable and diverse than it has ever been before. Internet and especially social media is a platform where women seek out images on what they want to look like, and an outlet through which women can perform outward comparison. With all of this happening, we also see a rise in body-positive brands that are reshaping body images in social and conventional media.

The influencers bringing change

In a culture where there is an ideal version of everything, plus-size celebrities and influencers are breaking the norms. Due to the rise of social media, we see the micro-community of every kind co-existing and appreciating one another. One such micro-community is the body positive community. For years the image of an ideal body has been dictated upon the young impressionable mind, now because of social media the world is witnessing other options of the perfect body. Celebrities like Ashley Graham, one of the first plus-sized models, Queen Latifa, Lizzo are only a few names among the sea of names that are making an impact. Brands like Fenty by Rihanna are also working towards a body-positive future by including all shapes, sizes and colours in their shows. In India celebrities like Sonam Kapoor came out openly declaring imperfection is a part of the daily life, and it is only because of a glam squad does she look flawless in front of the cameras. Celebrities and influencers displaying alternate realities help the impressionable minds in search of perfection to accept themselves and humanise their beauty. The micro-communities of social media, collectively are making a big impact in diversifying beauty and body images.

Social media has created a dichotomous world where men and women are constantly comparing themselves with the people online but are also moving towards a change to make beauty inclusive.

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