Social networks construct and reinforce normative conceptions of femininity and women’s appearance. According to O-Neill (2014), “young women and girls are under more pressure than ever before to look a certain way” (para. 1). Older women are not an exception to this rule. López-Guimerà, Levine, Sánchez-Carracedo, and Fauquet (2012) state that women under thirty-five are also prone to ideas on media beauty standards. This consistent pattern can be seen in the growing amount of women of the older age category who regularly visit cosmetologists and cosmetic surgeons with the purpose to look young and beautiful at any cost (López-Guimerà et al., 2012).
Of course, for the majority of women, competition with the aging factors as well their genetic predisposition to being large or having any other features of appearance not accepted by the media beauty standards becomes overcomplicated. They have to give up. As a result, they may fall into depression, lose their ability to engage in social life, and even commit suicide. This paper will focus on how women are put under stress due to social networks. Overall, consumption of social networks ideas creates the desire to be perfect in women leading to low self-esteem, depression, eating disorders, and at times, to suicide.
First of all, speaking about the way the social networks put women under stress, the struggle to be thin is to be discussed. Today, the image of a thin woman as a standard of perfect looks continues to flood social networks (Roxby, 2014). Affected by this propaganda, women get stressed, develop low self-esteem, and appear in the risk group for eating disorders or even suicide (Wrzus, Hänel, Wagner, & Neyer, 2013). According to O-Neill (2014), “girls as young as seven want to lose weight – and the vast majority feel as if they are judged on their looks” (para. 3). Evaluating this comment, it is evident that the concept of social networks beauty standards puts women under huge stress, and even females in the youngest age category face considerable psychological pressure to shape their looks according to the artificially-made image of the feminine from the social media. In the following comment, the feelings of a young girl affected by the social network’s outreach are expressed, “there has always been a pressure to be slim but I think it is much worse now because there are so many images online” (O-Neill, 2014, para. 11).
Next, the social networks put women under stress even more because along with being thin, it requires women to possess curves attractive to men with big size breasts and round hips. Since such a body image is very difficult to have, women become depressed and develop low self-esteem (Wolf, 2013). In her article towards the problems related to the media beauty image, Roxby (2014) narrates the experience of women who could see in practice that due to the nature of human body construction, females may either be thin or have attractive curves. In other words, social networks try to impose artificial standards of beauty that contradict the norms of the lipid distribution in women’s bodies. Ladies who strive to have such body image at any cost have to resort to the use of artificial techniques that often result in significant health problems (Wolf, 2013). As a result, such women may end up looking quite attractive at first but with the bad health, and the bad looks when complications after such operations develop in years.
Moreover, social media outreach bereaves women from the self-confidence and deprives their human dignity. O-Neill (2014) addresses this problem and illustrates it with the real-life example of a young woman Isla, who used to face pressure from the social networks, and learned how to cope with it. She is now a member of an influential social movement aiming to help women suffering from the emotional breakdown due to stress from social media. Isla states:
It’s really hard for young girls to aspire to be what they want to be because they are constantly being bombarded with messages telling them that they have to do certain things so that men will find them attractive, implying that that’s the only way to be successful in life (O-Neill, 2014, para. 13).
Reflecting on this comment, it can be said that the social outreach to have perfect looks is a strong influencing power in society and it should be better managed if people want a positive future for their children and families. No more and no less, pressure from social media is the global power that needs to be controlled. “But they are seeing the world through a filter, and that’s not healthy,” commented one of the ladies who used to suffer from the psychological problems due to the pressure from the social media and is now helping others to cope with the problem (Roxby, 2014, para. 27). Judging from this comment, a conclusion can be made that women lose satisfaction in life due to social network outreach. Hampton (2011) qualified this outreach as a human-made obstacle for real happiness.
Further, social media puts women under stress by imposing the need to apply a significant amount of make-up or do cosmetic surgeries to look pretty. According to Hampton (2011), agitprops from social networks state that men will not like women unless their cheeks are rosy enough, eyes, eyelashes, eyebrows, and lips are captivating, and the face tone is attractive. At that, there is no lack of understanding that such recommendations target bigger sales of cosmetic products (Wolf, 2013). To achieve the result advertised in social media, ladies tend to spend over twenty minutes a day on prepping themselves before they leave home.
Most women do not go out even to do minor shopping or drop litter unless they have enough make-up. Hampton (2011) explains that such a complex procedure of prepping is very stressful for women. As a consequence, they start feeling trapped, develop low self-esteem and depression. Remarkably, even in young girls who begin to use cosmetics, scientists have noticed significant disappointment due to the need to apply make-up any time, any day when they leave home or even stay at home and connect other people via the video (Roxby, 2014). Furthermore, according to Roxby (2014), “the MPs’ report said pressure to look good had pushed up cosmetic surgery rates by nearly 20% since 2008.” (para. 9). This development is another source of stress for women because such procedures cost fortunes, and for most women, they are inaccessible.
In conclusion, social networks propagate the idea that women have to adhere to the media standards of beauty. Such beliefs are harmful and can be seen as a reason for women’s low self-esteem, depression, suicide, and other negative developments. Thus, there are reasons to believe that such a state of affairs with social networks and women’s wellbeing needs alterations. A balanced view of women’s beauty needs to be adopted. This new media image of a beautiful woman should consider the health issues, physical peculiarities of women’s constitution, balanced view of diversity, and psychological considerations such as women’s social comfort and human dignity.
Hampton, K. N. (2011). Core networks, social isolation, and new media: internet and mobile phone use, network size, and diversity. Information, Communication & Society 14(1): 130-155.
López-Guimerà, G., Levine, M. P., Sánchez-Carracedo, D., & Fauquet, J. (2012). Influence of mass media on body image and eating disordered attitudes and behaviours in females: a review of effects and processes. Media Psychology, 13, 387-416.
O-Neill, C. (2014). Young women and girls under more pressure than ever to achieve so-called ‘perfection’, experts warn. Web.
Roxby, P. (2014). Does social media impact on body image? BBC News. Web.
Wolf, N. (2013). The beauty myth: How images of beauty are used against women. New York, N.Y: Random House.
Wrzus, C., Hänel, M., Wagner, J., & Neyer, F. J. (2013). Social network changes and life events across the life span: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 53.