On October 9, NEDA surveyed over 333 people about how accurately they felt the media portrayed people’s bodies. Of these people, 68% of respondents chose “Very inaccurately,” 24% chose “Fairly inaccurately,” 7% chose “Fairly accurately,” and 1% chose “Very accurately.”
These unrealistic representations can be implemented in a variety of ways. First, media outlets can choose to use bodies that are not representative of the average person’s body. In teenage shows, 94% of characters portrayed are below average weight. This holds true across other countless other fields like advertisements and movies where the average model or character fails to match up with the average person’s body.
Media outlets can also choose to edit the images of what may be more realistic bodies through photoshop programs. These programs are usually used to make the image closer to what society views as an “ideal body” which is usually thinner and free of stretch marks, scars and beauty marks.
These facts are important to know considering the average person consumes 612.40 minutes of media (social media, television, movies, etc.) per day and these minutes can make an impact.
In order to become a more critical viewer of media, NEDA recommends the following:
1. Remember the images portrayed are constructions.
These images were created to market something, whether it is a product, a lifestyle, or a mindset. Understanding they’re not representative of real life or real bodies can affect the impact these messages have on you.
2. Choose the lens in which you view media through.
You cannot control the images the media chooses to portray but you can choose how to look at them. When viewing any form of media, think about the message or image the creator wants us to associate with it, and then choose if you want to believe it. Choose to view in the way that will best protect your own body image and self esteem.
3. Use your power as a consumer.
This power can be used in two different ways. The first is to praise media outlets that do accurately choose to portray bodies and send letters letting them know they have done so. This can work in reverse as well by calling out companies who fail to be shape, look and size representative, and letting them know you now fail to support them.
For more information, visit our Digital Media Literacy Toolkit
Olivia Clancy is a sophomore at New York University studying applied psychology and child and adolescent mental health studies. She plans on using her own experiences with mental illness to help others in her future career as a clinical psychologist.