The Emerging Online Body Crisis

Author: Trisha Beher, Redmond High School '21

In an already disparate world, our situation has worsened to an unbelievable extent ever since the coronavirus pandemic broke out. So many of us, in a desperate attempt to stay connected to the outside world, have turned to social media to fight our feelings of loneliness, or at least, to stay entertained. Tiktok. Instagram. Twitter. Our screen time has increased exponentially during these last few months, and we are constantly online.

To be fair, this seems like one of the only plausible ways to stay connected to other people while also staying safe in our homes. Like many in the world, I have become a newfound phone addict, constantly scrolling through my feed at the crack of dawn, laughing at memes, reading inspirational quotes, and admiring daily doses of feminism.

As I watch people dance to trendy songs on Tiktok and see a plethora of “how to work out during quarantine,” or “how to get a beach bod while social distancing” videos on Instagram IGTV, I’ve started to notice something a bit strange. Forget strange. Disturbing.

The girls dancing to Renegade or Savage on Tiktok all boast hourglass figures, thin waists, and perfectly smooth skin; and these so-called dances all seem to overly-sexualize the people performing them. Despite this glaring and persistent homogeneity, not many social media users have voiced their concerns over this issue. Nowhere have I seen these same videos highlight girls that pride themselves on their hair, stretch marks, or scars on their bodies. And if I have, it is in the rare instance of someone making the attempt to promote body-positivity.

This is a problem. So many people are trapped inside their houses, feeling the senses of crippling anxiety and dread that come with being in quarantine, and when we turn to such a central aspect of this newly self-isolated world, we see smiling faces and perfect bodies that tell us that there is something wrong with us. What I think makes me beautiful, is deemed as imperfect and flawed in comparison to how the media portrays the ideal girl.

This type of brainwashing starts getting to your head. Every time you go to watch a YouTube video, you are bombarded with ads about weight-loss. Every time you browse through social media, you are greeted by recommended videos practically screaming that you need to watch “how to get a slim waist at home”. You begin to believe the claims that if you have cellulite, rolls on your stomach, or a larger figure, that you are unhealthy. That you are irresponsible. That you can’t take care of yourself. That you are disgusting, that your body is unacceptable. The censorship of body types, the criticism of differences, and the blatant disregard for these very issues in the realm of social media results in a crippling toxic feedback loop.

I’m not saying that working out or having a good diet is bad. In fact, social media can help with this in some cases. There are so many resources online that can help with staying healthy during this uncertain time. However, influencers and other social media users continue to maintain the view that those with different body types are not working out, do not have a good diet, or are not staying healthy, which is simply not true. The body dysmorphia and fat-shaming that is occurring, however, makes people who are healthy begin to doubt themselves, or turn to extreme diets that will actually destroy their livelihoods and health. Ironic, right?

It peeves me as I see people on social media continuing to shame others for how they look and spreading toxic misconceptions about different body types. This should not be happening, especially now, in the midst of a pandemic. We should be trying to empower each other, not bringing each other down. We need to stop face-tuning and photoshopping the blemishes out of our pictures and letting our insecurities run rampant in a time where everyone is already feeling trapped and insecure. And that includes all of the people on social media who are feeding into the establishment of an impossible standard of beauty and health.

So, the next time I see someone on Instagram offering advice on how to build the perfect beach-bod with all the “extra time” we have on our hands, I will look at myself in the mirror and smile, knowing that my stretch-marks, belly-fat, breakouts, and unshaved legs all contribute to perfection. I hope that people with insecurities, people with stomach rolls, scars from surgeries, and people with beautifully different bodies, can one day do the same. I hope that the people contributing to the problem of body-shaming will recognize how destructive it is, not only for the people around them but for themselves. I do hope for all of this, but I know that even through this difficult time, we possess the ability to lift each other up and to show each other that our differences are actually what unite us in this time of isolation.

Image from Unsplash