|Digging the Connection: Body Image, Advertising, and Print Media|
Magazines, newspapers, and other forms of print media are a big source of advertising in the modern world. Though we have other avenues to market and promote products and services like television and the internet, print media is still a very significant player in the advertising game. In 2009, for example, newspaper print ads expenditures were more than $24 billion. [i]
But there is one issue that’s making it quite harmful for young people. Children these days are exposed to the media just as much if not more than they are to school.[ii] There’s no problem if what is shown in magazines, billboards, and newspapers isn‘t harmful mentally and emotionally. Still, what if it is?
The influence brought by advertising especially in print to children and teens is getting more idealistic. This entails that what’s seen on it are virtually unrealistic and exaggerated. And the biggest problem comes with the reality that young people use anything they see in magazines and other forms of print as a basis for their own behavior.
The issue we’re talking about is body image. An attractive physicality (i.e. slenderness for women and muscularity for men) has become the outward symbol of one‘s personal will power and control in life.[iii] This kind of mentality puts young men and women under the constant pressure of looking good and physically fit. In fact, Teen People magazine reported that almost 30% of American teen girls feel that they are forced and stressed to have a sexier and fitter body figure because it is what the media portrays.
Additionally, supplements and body enhancement products use advertisements that mislead young men to believe the idealistic notion that they can achieve a leaner and muscular figure with little effort. The result: a lot of young boys and even men risk their health just to get the kind of body figure and built the media set upon them.
Though girls are the most affected gender when it comes to the body image standard set by print media, there is a current rise in the number of boys and men alike who are subjected to the pressure of getting muscles. This means that being physically insecure is not anymore exclusive to women since men who are either fat or skinny find themselves so low in society. This is mainly attributed to what they see in magazines, billboards, and other advertisements in print material of fellow men that are bulky, well-built, and full of muscles. By looking at their own self, they figure out that they don’t belong and cannot blend in because of their physical inferiority.
But actually, there is more to just having muscles and good looks. According to Hitti (2006), male and female print models aren’t perfect. They are just normal people who are made to look perfect by personal trainers and photoshop editors, all in the effort to sell products and services.[iv] And the consequence of it is that those who are greatly affected look up to those models and hope that they too can become just like them. However, there is nothing wrong in having inspiration for anyone who wants to look better. But the problem is young boys and teens go to the extent of starving and punishing themselves by avoiding food and skipping meals while working out in the gym. For many, this kind of activity can lead to serious health issues and even death.
Another downside in raising the standard of masculinity for men is the increase in compulsive weight exercises and training. Instead of allotting their time in more productive activities, men, young or old, are more preoccupied in going to the gym and sweating their heart out just to attain the kind of body standardized by print media. Additionally, there is also a very alarming boost in young boys using illegal supplements, steroids, and other banned substances that can skyrocket bigger and leaner muscles.
Whatever the consequence is, it is certain that print media is a very big supplier when it comes to poisoning, or to say the least, influencing young people in doing things and behaving beyond their normal selves just to get along with society’s trend. As long as advertisers continue to distort the public’s perception towards the importance of body image in one’s life, more and more teens and young people will suffer from it.
Newspaper Association of America. Research Dept. http://www.naa.org/trendsandnumbers/advertising-expenditures.aspx
[ii] American Academy of Pediatrics. AAP Parent’s Pages. Sex, the Media and Your Child. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/data/107/1/191/DC1/1
[iii] Grogan, Sarah. Body Image: Understanding Body Dissatisfaction in Men, Women and Children. Routledge. 1999.