Visualized Culture, Body Image and Self-Esteem

The rapid development of technology has changed our culture a lot and made it more and more visual: with our smartphones and social media we might use emoji’s and gif’s more than words in online communication. Also pictures of ourselves have become more important than before. A good example of that is a dating app called Tinder in which the pictures have the main role. Only ten years ago – at least in Finland – the dating sites were merely discussion forums with only some pictures.

The visual culture does not consist of just you and me, the basic people but quite the opposite; the media is filled with airbrushed or facetuned bodies and faces and that inarguably affects our ideas of normal or ideal bodies. The weirdest part is that it’s not just the advertisements that offer the paranormal beauty, but also in social media the basic people publish only the best pictures or the ones they’ve had time to touch on a bit.

Some research has been done on this phenomenon and its effect on the development of one’s own ‘self’. It has been of interest in the field of developmental psychology, social psychology and also media studies. Some scholars in Finland, such as Sari Näre and Atte Oksanen (2008), state that the constant monitoring or observance of one’s own image might lead to a twisted body image. That is to say that the contradiction between the ideal body and one’s own causes frustration and possibly shame. They refer to Nita McKinley, a professor of psychology in Tacoma, who uses the term “objectified body consciousness” on this. Näre and Oksanen even call the flood of the fictional, artificial images “visual harassment” and emphasize that the children should be protected against it. So the topic our students are concerned about is also of interest in academic studies.

On this site Alexandra Pop wonders how much we are observed in our everyday life in social media but also elsewhere. Helmi Niemi discusses the means to achieve “the perfect feed”. Irina Tiba reminds us to live the non-virtual life as well rather than the visual appearance in social media. Mirela Simeonova touches on violence on TV, which is also a part of the visualized culture.

References:

Sari Näre and Atte Oksanen: Virtuaaliruumiillisuus imaginaarisena väkivaltana. Kärsimys ja häpeä tyttöjen ja poikien suhteessa ruumiiseen. (Virtual Corporality as Imaginative Violence. Suffering and Shame in Girls’ and Boys’ Attitude to Body.) In Näre, Sari and Ronkainen, Suvi (editors): Paljastettu intiimi. Sukupuolistuneen väkivallan dynamiikkaa. (Unveiled Intimacy. The Dynamics of Genderized Violence. Poor transl.of the names by Laura Mäkelä only for this site.) Lapin yliopistokustannus, 2008.

https://sites.google.com/a/uw.edu/nitamckinleyphd/home/publications-vita

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Do You Look Good Enough?

We are permanently judged by everyone around us. We are judged by how we look, how we are dressed, how we talk and by our social status. Everywhere around us we hear ”be yourself” but we don’t realize how much looks matter and we don’t realize how people who look ”different” from us are treated.

What we all see on TV on the internet in supermarkets and on the street is how beauty brands and commercials show the society’s standards of beauty while saying that you should be yourself and embrace your body as it is. Actually everyone who decided to be themselves came over all the rude comments that say it’s not right to be like that, meaning you have to change to be accepted.

Secondly, appearance begins to mean the most when we start school. We’ve all been there. All the kids dressed by the latest trends, having the latest gadgets to play the newest games will always be the popular ones while the others will be excluded and bullied, the same thing standing for the ones who are underweight or overweight.

Besides all this, the hard part comes when you want to find a job. At an interview, a good appearance and a good first impression are the key to success. But what happens if you don’t match the standards of beauty? Well, chances are that you’ll be paid less, you won’t get a higher degree or you may even end up without getting a job.

Even when meeting a new person, we subconsciously try to deduce their personality and social status by their appearance. For example if that person is dressed nicely, they have money, therefore a good social status but if they’re dressed poorly, they have from the beginning a lower one and the same thing happens with the way we talk, the way we greet someone, the way we walk or even the way we smell.

So whether we like it or not, we are watched under the microscope especially on social media and the only way to cope with this is to truly be ourselves and make our decisions in life without thinking of what others might say.

Alexandra Pop, Liceul de arte vizuale “Romulus Ladea”, Romania

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Changing Ourselves with One Swipe at a Time

helmi1Selfie was chosen as the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013 which is no surprise considering how popular they had become. In the book Je Selfie Donc Je suis (I Selfie Therefore I Am) the writer of it and a psychoanalyst Elsa Godart estimates that young adults will take astonishing 25 700 selfies in their lifetime. And what do people do with all those selfies? Share them in social media, of course.  

There are many social media platforms where you can share your photos: Snapchat, where the photo or a video stays in only for few seconds, Facebook, where you can write about your life and show what you’re doing through pictures, and then there’s of course Instagram that is meant for sharing photos. But while the photo you share in Snapchat and Facebook isn’t necessarily perfect and it only portrays what you’re currently doing, Instagram is all about aesthetic and having those perfect pictures that fit your “feed”.

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An example how anyone could use Facetune. This editing was done by someone who has never used the app before.

To achieve this perfectness, some Instagram models and makeup artists airbrush their pictures or otherwise photoshop them. This is somewhat problematic since it can create pressure on their followers, who can start thinking negatively about themselves after seeing these edited pictures. One of the factors that has affected the increase of editing your own pictures, is Facetune. This app allows people to do Photoshop style retouching in their smartphones, and it is much easier to use than the program that is meant for professionals. With few swipes and taps, you can smooth your pores, cover pimples, or even change the whole shape of your face and body if you wish. Which is problematic considering how many people already feel insecure about their bodies.

Body image is something that is an issue for both boys and girls, but especially for girls in their teens or early twenties. According to the study #StudyofMind by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK, nine in 10 girls are unhappy with their bodies. In the study there are also quotes from some of the 1500 young people aged 14 to 24 who were surveyed. “Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren’t good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look ‘perfect’”, is one of those quotes and it does show the harsh reality.

Retouching photos has been around for longer than most may know, dating back into the mid-1800s, but recently it has grown much more popular and some would say it’s starting to be problematic. Even though photoshopping does have its perks, there is a clear downside and the way it can affect especially younger audience is concerning. We all should think about whether we want to retouch our photos or not, and if so then how much. It could make all the difference in the world to our friends and followers.

Helmi Niemi, Forssan yhteislyseo, Finland

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Digital Communication

Have you ever wondered how life will look like in 20 years? We are the ones who can still see the difference between how it was back then when we had no possibility of being always connected to the social media and how things are now. I am sure every one of us is thinking of a future taken over by technology and losing contact between each other. Young people are more and more concerned with their social appearance on the internet, rather than fitting in a group where they can actually be who they really are.

Firstly, the idea of popularity has been drastically changed recently. There was a time when people actually had to show their social skills in order to get popular. However, now all you have to do to gain popularity on social media is very similar to a video game: with the correct input such as a funny post, a cute selfie and whatever attracts attention, you’re rewarded with the positive reinforcement of engagement. So the more committed you are to your profile, the more popular you get. Furthermore, being popular has become predictable, boring and a job rather than an enviable social privilege. If popularity used to have an intangible, unquantifiable quality, on social media it’s exactly the opposite. It’s got to be quantifiable by the fact that it is now measured in followers, likes and shares. Our social media profiles are usually false personas, projections of the people we would like to be, rather that reflections of who we really are.

Secondly, a fair example for us to understand how much we are connected to the internet is proved by the fact that in a big city, 9 out of 10 people have a cell phone. If you are sitting in a bus, look around you and you will see that most of them are either scrolling on the newsfeed, or talking to someone on a phone. This technology is a new thing for us, we do not know how to approach it in a constructive way, so it has changed the way we communicate with one another, altering our culture. It is so much easier to keep in touch with all our friends through the social media that we start losing our ability to empathize. Changing the way we engage with one another, we have become wrapped up with the new technology and we start forgetting how to interact while being face to face with someone else, which is a growing fact and a notable trend. The true way genuine relationships are made is by direct contact, verbal instead of written communication, expressing and feeling someone else’s emotions rather than reading about them in a virtual conversation.

However, we can’t deny the fact that social media is a great way to keep in touch with our friends and family worldwide. It adds communication where we would normally be without it, helping us to remain in contact with our dear ones. It is a great way to follow our interests and hobbies, keeping track of the newest products and trends. The technology’s got to be a very important matter in our existence, giving us other perspectives of perceiving life.

To sum up, social media and digital communications amplify the human experience. But we need to remind ourselves that balance is important and so are real connections.

Irina Tiba, Liceul de arte vizuale “Romulus Ladea”, Romania

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Violence on TV

Television has become a really important part of  our daily routines, especially for young people,  adults and children who spend hours watching variety of TV programmes. These facts have led people to question whether watching television adversely influences children, and if so, to wonder what may be done to prevent such negative influence.

People who support TV, such as the representatives of TV channels, state that there is no need to worry about. To support their opinion they cite studies by psychologists who indicate that children are not indiscriminate viewers. In fact, they state that not only do children tend to choose programmes that pass on positive messages, but also that they are able to distinguish between reality and fiction, and are therefore not negatively affected by what they watch.

On the other hand, research has been conducted that contradicts the above findings. The second body of research indicates that the increased depiction of gratuitous violence and immorality in television programmes has indeed affected today’s youth and is directly contributed to the increase in juvenile crime and the breakdown of moral values in society. In addition, the experts responsible for this research have suggested steps that might be taken to solve this problem.

One way to prevent television’s negative influence would be for the government to censor the content of certain violent or immoral programmes. Types of broadcasts that are felt to exert negative influences could be shown only late at night when children are not likely to be watching. In this way the extent to which children might be exposed to negative influences would be limited.

Furthermore, parents can monitor what their children watch and take on the responsibility of changing channels or switching off the television set when they feel the programme being viewed may be harmful, thus ensuring their children are not exposed to negative influences.

In conclusion, it could be said that it is not yet possible to ascertain if, or to what extent TV negatively influences children. However, as the possibility does exist, it might be wise to take precautionary measures.

Mirela Simeonova, SU za HNI ”Konstantin Preslavski”, Bulgaria

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