I have a friend who has an eating disorder. I was the first person she told about it and given that I am no doctor or psychologist, I found it difficult to grasp it or react in a helpful way. My first reaction was silence and disbelief, but then I sought to comfort her by telling her how beautiful I thought she was and how I don’t think she needs to change her image at all. Her response to that verbatim was: “Don’t try to tell me that shit, T.J. You know I don’t need to hear that.” Ever since then, the question of how to deal with eating disorders and body image issues has plagued me.
Something in “Facebook: The Encyclopedia of Beauty?” that resonated with me was that most of the opinions offered said that getting rid of social media exposure wasn’t going to be the answer. Borzekowski claimed that the role of adults’ affirmation in adolescents’ lives is critical to preventing body image issues. I agree completely, but I would also note that the concept extends to any individuals that people hold in high esteem. For adolescents, that happens to be adults usually. For other individuals, it might be their closest friends. What worries me, and what I think is a potential root of social media’s negative effects is that the people making judgments of beauty are not necessarily close to the individual at all. There are people I haven’t seen in years that continue to ‘like’ and comment on my social media posts. To me, those comments don’t matter, but it might mean everything to someone else.
So with all that said, I think that one of the biggest issues that social media creates is the notion that image is everything. This is disproportionality an issue that women face, but it isn’t uncommon with men. (I’ve been ridiculed as skinny ever since I was young.) The biggest question that articles like this bring to my mind is how do we deal with image issues if image is everything? In my friend’s case, I discovered that trying to convince them of how beautiful, pretty, thin, etc. they are is useless. Instead, the focus should be taken away from image completely. With my friend, I stopped complimenting her appearance and started complimenting her work as a journalist, which came to mean much more to her than empty words describing how beautiful she is. As a whole, society should focus on what people do greatly, not if they look great while doing it.