Is social media helping or hurting?

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There are many examples of social media and the internet being hurtful. Young teens are very easily able to find images and ‘motivational’ poems and phrases online. These are found by simply searching for phrases or hashtags such as #ana, #thinspo and #mia. They can find phrases such as ‘My best friend Ana’ which personifies anorexia and gives the impression that it is someone they can rely on.

On the other hand, there are many examples of social media helping to fight against eating disorders and Photoshop. Two social media sites which are visibly helping are Tumblr and Instagram. Both of these photo-sharing sites now give a content advisory statement before showing you images if you search for terms in relation to eating disorders. Both sites also give a link to support sites and counselling pages.

There are also many celebrities setting very good examples of being against Photoshop and photo editing. Jessica Simpson refused make up and retouching in a photo shoot she did for Marie Claire magazine. Beyonce was also outraged when she found out her photos for her H&M campaign had been edited to make her curves smaller. More good examples like these have to be set in order for people to realise the differences the Photoshop makes in the advertisements we see every day.

A closer look at Anorexia

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Anorexia Nervosa is one of the most common eating disorders in the world. It is both an eating disorder and a serious mental health problem. A person with anorexia often has an intense fear of gaining weight, limits their food intake and also thinks about food a lot. They are often too thin and use food as a way of being in control of their lives or as a way to ease anxiety, tension and anger. While anyone can become anorexic it is very unclear what the cause of this very serious disease is. It has been speculated that culture, stress, anxiety, life changes and social pressures from families, friends or the media are contributing factors.

There are many almost invisible signs of anorexia which may not be noticed unless they are looked for. These signs include never eating or eating very little, weighing food and counting calories, moving food around the plate instead of eating it, taking diet pills or in serious cases, taking pills such as laxatives in order to have bowel movements and flush out food. These actions have very serious effects on your whole body and health, not just your weight. The blood thins and the person may develop anaemia.  The person’s blood pressure also lowers which causes the muscles of the heart to physically change. Their skin is easily bruised and is very dry. The body also creates a layer of very fine hair all over the body in order to insulate itself. Anorexia also has many effects on the brain and nerves of the person. They have a fear of gaining weight and can be easily irritated, sad and moody. They also can’t think straight and may faint very often.

Someone who suffers from anorexia can easily get help confidentially but may not think they need to.

Eating disorder facts

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The seriousness of photo manipulation is shown to us when people, especially young teens, are influenced by this and are brain washed into thinking that the images shown to us are beautiful even though they are edited. This has also led to the impression that skinny is better.

Their image of beauty is distorted and this may lead to them having low self-esteem. Unfortunately this has led to a lot of cases around the world of eating disorders such as Bulimia nervosa and Anorexia nervosa. It is estimated that up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder around the world, and only 1 in 10 of those suffering receive treatment. Worryingly, a very high 50% of people suffering from an eating disorder meet the criteria for depression. Closer to home, The Department of Health estimates that up to 20,000 people in Ireland may be affected by eating disorders. Eating disorders also represent 80 deaths annually.

We see that teens are mainly affected by eating disorders such as bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. In 2013, 11.5% of all admissions to Irish psychiatric hospitals and units had a diagnosis of an eating disorder. Females accounted for 92% of theses admissions. A study of Irish teens also found that eating disorders were more prevalent among girls than boys. It was also found that this was caused by girls having higher levels of body dissatisfaction and a higher drive for thinness. Another study showed that self-image was identified as the top factor that hurts the mental health of Irish teenagers.

The history of Photo – manipulation

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This form of photo manipulation has been around for almost as long as photographs. Retouching was also used as a big factor in propaganda mainly used by Joseph Stalin. Stalin was notorious for airbrushing images in order to show him with only those who were in his good graces at the time. One famous image which he had edited in 1930 had a commissar completely removed from the image after he fell out of the Soviet Union leader’s good graces. This editing of photographs helped Stalin to succeed in winning the favour of the country and turning his followers against certain men. Mussolini was also a culprit of photo-editing where he has been shown to have airbrushed images in order to make himself appear manlier and more heroic. An example of this can be seen when he had a horse handler removed from an image to give the impression of his masculinity being very great. Hitler was also known to use manipulated photos in order to make himself more likable An example of this was when he had a close friend of his removed from a photo. It has been guessed that Hitler done this in order for himself to appear more of a ladies man as he stayed very close to this man until his death. Although the editing we see today isn’t done by people who are as monstrous as Hitler, Stalin or Mussolini, they still have very serious and lasting effects.

My presentation – In detail

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My topic is based on how our perception of beauty has changed in recent years and how this has been mainly caused by the introduction and popularization of digital tools such as Photoshop. The main reason I chose this topic was because photo manipulation is everywhere. We see it every day in advertising, on the covers of magazines and especially online. Social media is the main source of photo-shopped images and is used to spread photo edited images to everyone. This spread has been majorly influenced by the introduction of photo-sharing websites such as Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. An example of Photoshop that is very much popular right now is Kim Kardashian’s ‘Break the Internet’ campaign for Paper magazine. In this photo we are shown a very curvy and voluptuous Kim Kardashian yet when we see the original photo without editing we see that Ms Kardashians assets aren’t what we are shown.

kim k

This dishonesty in industries such as fashion and make up are very harmful to people all over the world. Photo shop is not only used on women but has also been used on male celebrities. Editing techniques that are most commonly used in order to give the appearance of beauty are the smoothing out of skin in order to make it look perfect, bigger and brighter eyes and especially skinnier curves. Photo shop has even been used on advertisements for food in order to make them more appetising and appealing to us. The actual food item we get is unfortunately much smaller or not as appetising as the images we are shown.