How Appearance Affects our Perception of People

Bailey Langhans, Journalist

You are surrounded by perfect faces. 

What society considers as beautiful people are presented everywhere on social media, in magazines, and in TV shows. With all these role models of fashion and appearances, people often degrade their own appearance or strive to be just like the models they encounter in everyday media, but now companies are starting to make a change. 

Societies’ ideals make us believe that without makeup or the perfect body shape, that we don’t fit in. Some ads try to make females believe that to be beautiful they have to be white, tall and skinny with long hair and perfect facial features. On the other hand, men are also presented in a certain way on the media. Advertisements present men as very masculine with a remarkably fit body that fails to represent a large portion of the population. People of all different kinds of hair, body shapes, races, and other features have not been represented in the media. 

Overall, some of the models that are shown in the media only represent a small part of society. However, some of the standards that the media sets can’t ever be achieved. With modern technology, companies use video and photo editing to change the advertisement to unrealistic standards. An AdMedia article by Joel Miller revealed that even without editing that the majority models weigh 23% less than the average woman. This difference was only a mere 8% twenty years ago. Companies do this to get consumers to aim for a goal that is almost impossible so that the consumers will continue to buy products.

The media not only hurts consumers’ perception of their selves but also can hinder people’s health. Many consumers will often try to lose weight which can be beneficial to eat healthy and get exercise. However, many people take this to the extreme by over-exercising or starvation. A research team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine analyzed 1,765 American adults from ages 19 and 32 years old in 2014. They found that the subjects who spent the most time engaged with social media each day had 2.2 times the risk of developing eating disorders. This data could also explain how the increase in media could have contributed to the increase of eating disorders by over 400% since 1970.

Luckily this issue is starting to be recognized. For example, Dove released a report to reveal that globally 67% of women want brands to start taking responsibility for the imagery they use to represent women. The study also found that women want media and advertisers to do a better job of portraying women with physical diversity. 66% felt that body shapes and sizes are limited, and 64% say characteristics such as freckles, scars and skin conditions are unrepresented. Dove used this information to create Project #ShowUs. This project is the world’s largest stock photo library that is used to shatter beauty stereotypes and show people as they are instead of how others believe they should be. JCPenny has also launched a campaign called “Here I am” to represent people with all body shapes and sizes. In addition, a lot of companies are hiring more models with a variety of races. These companies and more are making a change to stop beauty standards.

By giving attention to the problem the media is now starting to encourage people to not change themselves and their style to fit the perfect cookie-cutter image of society. Everyone deserves to be represented as their own type of beautiful. Someone’s style is an expression of themselves, not what everyone else believes that it should be. Therefore no one should force themselves to fit beauty standards. Everyone should have the ability to love themselves just the way they are. However, if someone likes beauty products, then they shouldn’t feel selfish about it because it makes them happy. Everyone shouldn’t feel like they have to fit the mold of society and should be able to express themselves with their own beauty.