Body shaming is bad enough in itself. The fact that social media has become its chief purveyor makes it worse, because of the vast reach of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Social media has made it easier for people to vilify, mock, or criticise the shape, size, and body features of anyone who puts up a public photo.
As I explained previously in my ‘Body Shaming - The Truth’ post, body shaming comes in all forms, and it is, unfortunately, affecting the youth the most. It was, in fact, voted by approximately 1 million people as one of the top 10 issues in the UK Youth Parliament's Make Your Mark ballot in 2016. The Youth Select Committee called on Internet companies to do more to tackle online body shaming. Many victims of body shaming suffer from low self-esteem and develop feelings of inadequacy and failure, while others can develop eating disorders like anorexia.
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Dr. Melissa Miller, a counsellor who has treated body shaming victims of all ages, gave WCNC a blunt and disheartening assessment of online body shaming. According to the counsellor, social media “has created an epidemic of body shaming,” with our bodies “seemingly up for comment 24/7.” She then added her own expert take on body shaming’s effects, pointing out that it “goes deeper than just making somebody feel bad in the moment,” as it makes victims feel ashamed and self-loath at the same time. Then they start thinking that they are “less worthy as a person”.
Young people, though, are not the only victims of body shaming. Pretty much anyone is a target, as in the case of an unsuspecting senior woman who was body shamed by the model Dani Mathers. The incident in which Mathers posted, with an unflattering caption, a photograph of a 70-year-old woman changing in a gym is one of the more infamous instances of body shaming. It also illustrates how anyone, at any age, can fall prey to this form of cyber bullying.
Celebrities are often the targets of body shaming. Just recently, TV host and fitness instructor Davina McCall was victimised by body shaming on social media. The former Big Brother presenter and The Million Pound Drop host posted on Instagram a bikini selfie, something which she described as quite unbelievable given her age. She then encouraged others to improve their fitness, telling them: “If you are starting . . . start slow . . . set small goals . . . achievable goals . . . you will get to where you want to be." Some on social media, however, criticised McCall’s thin appearance, with others pointing out that she was encouraging an unhealthy attitude to weight. In an interview after the Instagram post, McCall noted how thin-shaming was deemed acceptable compared to fat-shaming. Unperturbed, she spoke of how she has been a good role model, showing people over 40 that it still possible to get fit even as they get older.
Body shaming is a scourge, and it has become commonplace no thanks to social media. Social media must do more to fight back against body shaming by promoting a more positive view of all body shapes.