Wiping away trails of mascara stained tears from her face, she flicks to the next photo, then the next, then the next. She reads the comments, sighs, and turns to look at herself in the mirror. So unhappy with what she sees, she feels helpless and a little lost – what else can I do to make myself like how I look? She turns back to the images that have caused this crushing wave of sadness. Vogue? No. Catwalk models? No. Television stars and actresses? No. Facebook? Yep.
If I had a pound for every time a friend (male or female) has turned to me exasperated and sad, jabbed their finger at a photo of a friend on their laptop or smartphone screen, and winged about how imperfect they feel in comparison to said friend – I’d be able to afford the Melissa shoes I’ve been lusting after this week. While media critics and politicians blame celebrities and women’s magazines for the ‘size zero’ phenomenon and the heartbreaking increase in eating disorders, they seem to have neglected one of the most influential forms of media and information sharing out there. We are frequently told that we are more connected than ever, via email, facebook, twitter and other social media. As well as these sites being great for sharing embarrassing photos of last night’s Park End disaster, merciless frapes or catching up with friends, they can also have an adverse affect on those with low self esteem as they find themselves endlessly comparing themselves to photos of facebook friends of twitter followers. The difference here, which makes social media even more of a culprit in triggering low self esteem and body confidence, is that the images of friends we see online are images of real people. People we actually know. Yes, there is a bit of photo-shopping of profile pictures and cover photos, but more often than not (and whether we like it or not) the photos we are tagged in on facebook show us for who we are – warts and all. So when you’re having a day when your hair is shocking or you’ve over indulged on Hassan’s the night before, and you’re confronted by photos of your tute partner looking gorgeous 24/7, it’s easy to see why many people become disheartened and critical of their own appearance.
Although some do look at photos of models and neglect to notice the extensive editing that goes into those shoots to make models look gorgeous, by and large society knows that hotty in the Guess adverts is just impossible. But seeing friends and college members that you see everyday (and that you know do actually eat) looking perpetually great can cause a bit of a dent in one’s self confidence. It is just important to remember, that whilst you’re getting hair envy over the girl who sits at the back in lectures, or desperately trying to understand how the guy who always orders double portions in hall isn’t so big that he gets wedged stuck in the lift at Wahoo, there are probably people looking at you through eyes that are saying ‘I wish’.