Ten and a Half Hours
In a recent blog on positive body image, I mentioned looking critically at the advertisements and images that mass media will be unloading on us this summer. However, it’s more accurate to say that the media blitz is a year-long event when it comes to unrealistic standards of body image and beauty. Furthermore, humans are consuming more of this message now than at any time in history. According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report, Americans spend ten and a half hours per day consuming media, including TV, smartphones and tablets, the Internet, or the radio. That is a staggering number. That’s ten and a half hours’ worth of painstakingly curated images of spray-on tans, airbrushing, filters, and perfect lighting. This kind of exposure comes with consequences.
Eating Disorders and Technology in Fiji
According to a study by the University of Toronto, those consequences begin with our children. This study shows an increased reportage of body dissatisfaction among children adolescents after viewing media containing a slender body ideal. The research also references a now-famous study involving Fijian adolescent girls. In 1995, Dr. Anne Becker began surveying high school-aged girls, asking questions regarding body image and TV consumption. It is important to note that satellites had only begun beaming signals to the main island a month prior to the study. It is equally important to point out that in traditional Fijian culture, a larger, rounded body type is considered ideal.
Western Television, Western Body Image
Dr. Becker returned for further research in 1998 after the island had had 3 years of Western television and its accompanying body image ideals. The results were distressing, but not surprising. 15% of girls responded that they had engaged in purging in order to control their weight, compared with 3% three years prior. Girls who had watched TV three or more nights weekly were 50% more likely to describe themselves as “too fat”. Finally, “29 percent scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk, compared with 13 percent three years before”. Researchers returned to the island to conduct a study 13 years later. That study focused on the influence of social media and received similar results.
Too Complex for a Single Cause
I should point out that none of these studies prove a direct link between eating disorders and technology. The etiology of an eating disorder is far too complex to point to a single cause. However, there is pretty damning evidence concerning the relationship between the media and body dissatisfaction, and negative body image is thought to be a major contributor when it comes to risk for eating disorders. If someone you know is suffering from disordered eating, please contact a medical professional. The staff at Ocean Recovery includes therapists, counselors, and nutritionists to provide a multi-faceted solution to a multi-faceted problem.