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Setting the Standards High in Life: are we Idealists?

Social media’s influence on our ideals

As we have been in lockdown, the amount of people on social media has grown to 490 million users over the past 12 months. Social media is often viewed as a way to escape reality, maintain friendships and entertain us. However, has it influenced us with an idealistic view on how we should look and how we should live our lives?

For many people, social media has been around all their lives – enough to have influenced and created a mindset of how things should be in our lives, such as what we view as beautiful and what is success. On the other hand, it has also had the effect of making people feel like outsiders or that they are not good enough because of the unattainable standards it perpetuates. Isn’t social media just smoke and mirrors, projecting unrealistic expectations onto us since many individuals use photo editing and other resources to create, and follow, these standards of perfection.

With these standards, social media has created more insecurities and has fed upon the ones we have already created in our minds. A survey conducted with 227 female university students discovered that because of social media, there was a tendency for them to compare their appearance negatively with peers and friends. These effects of social media have led us to be more competitive and judgemental, creating issues with us psychologically and physically. 

These unrealistic standards impact both men and women alike, as men are subjected to idealised standards of having a strong physique and not to be emotional. The National Eating Disorder Association stated that in the USA, 30 million people suffer from eating disorders. This demonstrates the widespread nature of mental health problems, which intensifies concerns surrounding the use of social media as this can exacerbate those problems further. 

Is it all social media, or is society to blame for these unrealistic standards?

Despite social media having its influence on our mindset, can all the blame be put onto social media or does society play a part too? Society has always had standards on beauty and life – especially for women – from the Greeksbelieving a beautiful face is one with harmonious proportions, to renaissance seeing beauty as being spiritual, delicate and maternal. 

As years have passed, people are becoming more accepting with how they look and how they live, but we still haven’t moved on from these unrealistic standards as they still exist and continue to affect us. Arguably, they can dictate our lives. They can determine whether we are perceived as successful or a failure, beautiful or unattractive. 

Like society, social media also uses such standards to make us feel unworthy with the projection of toxic ideals. Despite social media feeding into our insecurities and having an influence on us as individuals, the standards on social media are created by our own idealistic views – not social media itself. Accordingly, shouldn’t we blame ourselves for being idealistic and creating such standards? Instead of wanting to fit into existing standards, we should be less idealistic and be happy just the way we are. We are not perfect, so why do we allow society and social media to make us think we have to be?

Beauty standards and acceptance

Many cultures have different beauty standards of what beauty is to them, ranging from fair skin to heavy makeup. Having these standards in cultures creates insecurities and makes us question as individuals if we are beautiful. It raises questions as to whether it is important o meet these standards and whether such beauty defines us. 

In countries like South Korea, beauty is quite important and is viewed to define your ability. Editor in The New York times, Jainnie Cho, states that ‘it’s your weapon in this ridiculous competitive society and it shows your worth’. For this reason, many have suffered with this idealistic view impacting most aspects of their lives. On the other hand, television series like My ID is Gangnam Beauty and True Beauty are beginning to show a development towards bringing forth acceptance and the progression that society needs to move away from beauty defining individuals. Both shows tackle plastic surgery and need for make up to cover yourself but by the time you reach the end of the show, they find acceptance and appreciate their journey and understand what true beauty really means – inner beauty.

We individuals are known always to judge a book by its cover and to have high expectations which often makes us idealists; however, we should not let social media and society define us for how we look and live. This is easier to say than in practise, but with our reliance on social media growing, we should try to be more aware of our consciousness and what we feed our minds. These toxic thoughts can lead to competition and serious mental health issues. For this, we arguably have a duty to ourselves to find self-acceptance, rather than continuing to perpetuate unrealistic standards. Moving forwards, we can try to educate ourselves more about these issues and teach others from a young age about finding that self-acceptance, regardless of social media.  

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