How Mass Communication and Media Form Our Attitude to Self Appearance – A Case Study on Digital Manipulation

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Men and women on the big screen

Reviews show that male characters appear twice as more often as female characters in the 100 most popular American family movies. And those female characters that do appear on the screen most often wear sexually explicit clothes.

In addition, women in movies are much more likely than men to play non-verbal roles and are more likely to be shown nude.

Men aged 40+ appear in entertainment programs ten times more often than women of their age. Male announcers and presenters are allowed to grow old and gray, while women are forced to sign contracts forbidding gaining weight.

In films about the personal lives of older men, their companions are usually at least ten years younger.

Even on the covers of glossy magazines, women appear in swimsuits and revealing outfits, while men in business suits and ties. Not to mention the female media headlines that revolve exclusively around diets and other ways to improve your appearance.

Money question

To understand how significant the impact of such messages is in our lives, it is important to understand the very nature of media and social networks. Why do they insist so stubbornly that only certain types of women can be successful and worthy to be loved? Why has digital photo correction become the standard?

It’s all about the money. The media depend on advertising budgets, which means they must support the same ideals as the manufacturers of different goods. At the same time, it has been proven that women are the main buyers of goods and services. They account for over $20 trillion in global spending.

If manufacturers manage to convince a woman that she needs a certain dress, hairstyle, or makeup to be happy, the profit is almost guaranteed to be in their pockets.

The same goes for social media. In 2019 alone, $5 billion was spent on advertising various products with the help of women models. And in the next five years, according to estimates of the influential marketing agency Mediakit, this amount will increase to 10 billion.

Behind the “personal” and “confidential” recommendations of miraculous massagers, vitamins, fast-acting serums, and waist correctors are actually the products offered by advertisers.

Digital manipulation

If we are already accustomed to using all the features of Photoshop in magazines and advertising, then digital manipulation on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks is still a novelty for many. Fashion makers can’t live without filters or professional lighting, image correctors, allowing squeezing or enlarging the body in different parts, and blurring cellulite. All these small deviations from reality raise the bar of the ideal body to which we are striving.

Even conferencing systems like Zoom have a Touch-Up My Appearance button.

All this forces us to view any part of our body as a potential problem, without thinking about whether it really needs improvement.

How not to become a victim of media stereotypes

The most effective solution is to develop our media literacy, that is, to filter and question everything that we see in the media or social networks.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when viewing any content:

  1. Do I feel better or worse about myself when I see this?
  2. Who benefits from me believing in this idea? Who advertises this content?
  3. Does this message aim at making money on my lack of self-confidence and selling me a solution to fix my “flaws”?
  4. Does this information induce me to dwell on my appearance?
  5. Does this content promote or reinforce distorted ideals of how bodies and faces should look like?

If you feel that you do not like the answers to these questions, unsubscribe from this source of information.

For movies, there is the so-called Two-Character Test. In order for the movies to pass this test, there must be at least two female characters, who talk to each other and not only about men.

Surprisingly, over 40% of Hollywood movies fail this test. Moreover, their number has remained almost unchanged since the mid-90s, despite the entire feminist agenda.

Treat yourself with regular media abstention. This is the rare case when isolation brings joy. Focus on what you see and feel in the real world. This will allow you to perceive your own appearance naturally, and you will not succumb to the promises of happiness that await you if your body looks a certain way.