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Media slaughters self-esteem

In a time when friends mean Facebook friends and popularity is measured by Instagram likes, the media creates unrealistic expectations for women.

“What happened to her face!” was the most common after recent photos of actress, Renee Zellweger, surfaced and took over the tabloids. Another facet of the onslaught of criticism stems from celebrities and their excessive plastic surgery.Jim Carrey, Zellweger’s former boyfriend, reacted to the harsh criticism she was being subjected to. Carrey stated,

We immediately judge people because it is a commodity to judge people. It appeals to the lowest denominator in our society.”

The core of this issue is about commending women on their inability to maintain an eternally youthful appearance, instead of focusing on their accomplishments. Our generation is ruled by social media, consumed by the “selfie” culture, and characterized by over sharing personal information. The media can be ruthless, defaming female celebrities on their looks. Their judgments ranging from choice of clothing, lack of makeup, and their weight. This judgment is not exclusive to celebrities, it is a present struggle in our daily lives. Most people find themselves stressing over Instagram and Facebook likes rather than school assignments.

This seeming obsession over looks, could well possibly be an emotional urgency and a need for the approval from society. Dr. Emily Russell, Professor at Rollins, reflects on the judgmental and oppressive shadow social media casts on an impressionable generation:

Things that once might have seemed too intimate or too mundane to share are all part of the outward-facing media package we present to the world. Since these images and posts tend to be curated to be flattering and positive, I think it can have the effect of creating a paradoxical sense of simultaneous connection and isolation; we have more “friends” than ever before and technology can facilitate affinities like shared upbringing or weird interests, but we may also feel alone in our unhappiness, moments of inactivity, and boredom.”

Rollins Alumni Janis Hirsch, television producer and writer recently spoke at Rollins and shared her experiences working as a female writer in a heavily male dominated work environment. She reiterated the importance of writing female characters for television that women could relate to, find parts of themselves in and be inspired by. This is something that as a writer, she strived to convey to a wide audience through her witty, comedic writing style, she said,

I was looking at their identities, not their crutches.”

In college, how is this notion on physical appearance detrimental to an education? If there is a preoccupation with what a person looks like, how can we begin to fully realize what we, or others, are truly capable of, intellectually? Dr. Russell believes that we are all creating persona’s that can withstand any obstacles society tries to hurl at us:

In an academic environment, especially one that emphasizes finding your passions and place in the world, the constant circle of self-reflection in comparison to others’ public self can feel sometimes alienating and sometimes inspiring.”

I’m hesitant to ever cast technology as all good or all bad, and I hope that analytic skills gained in the classroom can be turned back on “selfie” culture itself. We are constructing textual selves just as Ben Franklin or Frederick Douglass did in their autobiographies and our “selves” need to be analyzed as well.” It is time to redefine ourselves not by our looks, and judge others by their changing styles, but with what we are capable of achieving through our intellect and grit.

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