Mass Media: Adding Fuel to the Fire

Borderline personality disorder is one of the most highly stigmatized mental illnesses. However, unlike other illnesses, the stigma associated with BPD often comes from mental health professionals (NAMI).

By Joseph Jacob

In previous blog posts, we’ve touched upon the media’s shrinking definition of beauty. This is something that we are more than familiar with—magazines and billboards featuring extremely thin models in tight and provocative clothing, TV commercials of male and female models promoting beauty products, perfume/cologne, and clothing, movies and shows with women who are toned and men with six-packs and muscles. But before we go any further, it is important to note that in almost all cases CGI, excessive makeup, and photo-editing software are extensively used to make these men and women more “attractive” (that is, in the eyes of advertising and marketing companies). In other words, beauty portrayed in the media sphere is often manufactured thus pushing the image of beauty further from reality—a consequence of living in a society where “sex sells.” The best way of selling a product is through sex appeal, or featuring women and men who are, interestingly enough, unusually skinny. This is a disservice to these models who are skinny to begin with as well as to society as a whole.

The media works to produce and place advertisements so that their intended customers will see and hopefully buy their product. For instance, it was found that women’s magazines contained 10 times more advertisements and articles promoting weight loss than men’s magazines (Stice). Though it would be false to accuse magazine advertisements as the main cause of eating disorders in women, it is important to see the correlation between how exposure to the ideology that being thin is of great importance can lead to feelings of depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity, and body dissatisfaction (“Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders”). This, in turn, can develop eating pathologies such as anorexia and bulimia as well as excessive and harmful dieting (“Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders”).

Social media can also foster these previously mentioned sentiments. Facebook, Twitter, and other sites also play a substantial role in propagating feelings of dissatisfaction with one’s body image. For instance, seeing Facebook friends post pictures of their toned bodies or talking about skipping meals to lose weight can bring feelings of guilt into the minds of the viewer. Being surrounded by these posts and pictures that praise thinness work hand in hand with the media to promote feelings of negative self-image. However, it is not all bleak as our society is moving in a direction that promotes health over thinness, wellness over a number on a tag. In addition, the public is taking a stand against this mentality of hyper-thinness that has since captivated our youth.


Stice, Eric, Erika Schupak-Neuberg, Heather E. Shaw, and Richard I. Stein. “Relation of Media
Exposure to Eating Disorder Symptomatology: An Examination of Mediating
Mechanisms.” PII: S0021-843X(02)00526-6 (1994): n. pag. Journal of
Abnormal Psychology, 11 Apr. 1994. Web. 7 Dec. 2014.
“Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders.” National Eating Disorders Association. NEDA, n.d.
Web. 05 Dec. 2014.

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