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Reimagining Body Positivity in the age of Social Media





Social media has rapidly become an essential element in our daily lives, more so as young girls turned to their devices during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this increasing screen time came an escalation in the vulnerabilities associated with unrealistic body image standards perpetuated on these platforms. This exposure to unrealistic beauty standards resulted in a mental health issues among young girls. I believe this in combination with the pandemic's isolation led to a mental health crisis among young women, as evident in the record CDC numbers from 2021.

However, a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health provides a glimmer of hope. Contrary to the dominant narrative that beauty ideals on platforms like Instagram and TikTok contribute to lower self-esteem, this research suggests that sexualized body-positive content could enhance body satisfaction among young women. This challenges previous concerns that melding sexuality with body-positivity might be detrimental.

At my high school's our National Organization of Women (N.O.W.) club, recognized the importance of body image in young women's mental health and created an initiative called "Love Your Body". Love your body takes a proactive approach by conducting an art contest to provide a platform for students to visually challenge and combat the mental health issues associated with body image. Through creative expressions, students challenge society's beauty norms, reinforcing the themes similar to those highlighted in the study.

The study in the article focuses on a group of young Italian women. This study revealed that participants exposed to sexualized body-positive content felt better about their bodies compared to those who saw sexualized beauty ideals. The core takeaway here is that the harmful effects associated with sexualized content mainly arise when combined with cultural beauty ideals, not when promoting body-positivity.

However, it's essential to approach these findings with caution. While the study presents promising results, its limitations, particularly its focus on a specific demographic and neglect of certain variables, should be kept in mind. Additionally, the fact that body-positive content encourages a “downward social comparison” is ethically debatable, suggesting that women might be feeling better only because they perceive the images as "less attractive" than cultural ideals.

In a world where young girls are bombarded with unrealistic standards, the importance of initiatives like "Love Your Body" becomes important. The study reminds us that the content we consume plays a significant role in shaping our perceptions. As social media continues to evolve, so should our understanding of its effects. The findings might be the beginning of a renewed approach to body-positivity, but more comprehensive studies are needed to cement these ideas.

By promoting and celebrating all body types, we pave the way for a healthier, more confident generation of young women. It's time to reshape the narrative around body image and use the digital era's tools to uplift rather than undermine.

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