Social Media Beauty Is Driving Us All Crazy
It is a fact that physical attractiveness creates a strong first impression on the mind; in fact, it is such a powerful impression that our minds can actually generate assumptions about a person’s status, success and intelligence based on their physical appearance, even if those prove not to be true. According to many psychologists, research indicates that beauty is the one thing that produces a halo effect, that is, an immediate perception.
Although beauty is subjective and does indeed lie in the eye of the beholder, in the age of social media, people are subliminally influenced by the imagery they are constantly seeing and one which dictates to them what ideal notions of beauty are. Today, a fair skinned, skinny woman with the perfect pout, perfectly arched eyebrows, perfectly dyed hair, or a man with six pack washboard abs, a chiseled jawline and a brooding look are sold everywhere around us, from social media to life-sized billboards. And so, everyone is aspiring for faces that fall into the dimensions of the “golden triangle,” a numerical placement of appendages on the face that is pleasing to the eyes of the onlooker.
For this, people go to extreme lengths to achieve their ideal face and look. In south east Asia, and particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the notion of beauty is associated with a fair complexion. For many reasons ranging from post-colonialism to the narrative-setting of the “whiter,” Western world, there is an unjust discrimination against dark skin tones where we live. Media is forever playing a negative role through it’s aggressive campaigns of whitening soaps and creams that reiterating that the secret to happiness, success, love and marriage lies in having lighter coloured skin.
In south east Asia, and particularly Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, the notion of beauty is associated with a fair complexion. For many reasons ranging from post-colonialism to the narrative-setting of the “whiter,” Western world, there is an unjust discrimination against dark skin tones where we live.
Dr. Mehreen Mujtaba
This paranoia with skin colouring has taken such root in our society that men and women are going to great lengths to lighten their natural skin tones, including injudicious use of the injectable glutathione in high doses to achieve desired results. The list of side effects are long and exhaustive, but the sad truth is that no one seems to care. There is the use of steroid and mercury based creams for bleaching the skin, which also leads to skin damage. A few years ago, an online movement called “dark is beautiful” was launched in India to draw attention to this growing epidemic, and similar campaigns are desperately needed in Pakistan as well, as more and more people fall prey to unnatural and frankly unachievable notions of acceptability and beauty.
This leads directly to negative body image, which refers to how people see themselves. A negative body image can lead to dangerous eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Of late, there is an increased number of teens and young adults suffering from these conditions, which result in low self-esteem and depression. People are spending hundreds of thousands of rupees on unregulated machines which are not FDA approved to remove fat from their bodies, alongside going on unnecessary, unhealthy and scientifically unproven diet regimens.
In Pakistan, a worrying trend of morning shows has emerged with aesthetic physicians performing live botox and filler injections (mostly targeting women), making gullible audiences accept these as routine procedures which they are anything but. These are, in most cases, medical procedures and there are now innumerable cases of malpractice. First, due to sheer demand, the market is getting inundated with low-cost products. Secondly, novices without proper training are essentially playing with the health of patients.
The pressure starts young. No matter how intelligent, accomplished or intellectual, it appears as a society, we now judge the value of people (and of ourselves) primarily by the way we look. There is extraordinary pressure on young adults, and even children, to look a certain way. In some cases, parents take infant girls to salons for aggressive hair removal procedures like waxing- a painful process that can lead to dangerous infections.
As a society, we need to carefully review what we are telling ourselves and others. All women do not and cannot look like trending Instagram models, all babies cannot look like the blue-eyed, perfectly curated babies of Instagram moms, we cannot all have flat stomachs or the flawless skin of photoshopped cover-girls and boys.
Already, we are seeing too many of self-obsession’s detrimental effects around us, with social media pressures leading to depression and low self-worth in perfectly healthy individuals. These lead to anti-social behaviours, a generation of emotionally stunted adults, and have in some cases led to suicide. In Pakistan like in the region, it is weakening the core of a society which should glamourise intellect, integrity and genuine happiness over beauty. With its myriad distractions, it is also hindering our youth and our country from achieving national growth.