By Oona Brennan and Alanna DeGaetano
A baby rhino—that’s how Elliot Arana, a senior at Harvest Collegiate, describes his younger self. He would drape himself in oversize hoodies, even in 90 degree heat, and always felt uncomfortable with attention.
When Arana hit high school, he spent one summer intentionally dieting to lose weight and feel better about himself.
“I had been insecure about my weight,” he says, “and growing up surrounded by social media wasn’t helping.”
The use of social media has become ubiquitous with everyday life, and it’s taking a toll on teen body image. Social media causes a range of insecurities in young men. The mask of masculinity often covers them.
Arana says that his social media use is quite frequent.
“We’re surrounded by social media constantly,” he says. “I feel like I’m surrounded by it like 10 hours a day.”
Elliot adds that his family fueled his insecurity, as his grandmother would compare him to his skinnier brother. The comparison to his brother and the constant exposure to social media is what fed his body insecurities. Arana says he was “100 percent insecure as a kid.” As time passes, however, he has become more content with his self image.
Mario, a social worker who asked to be identified solely by his first name, says media affects body image and self esteem.
“The media has certain messages that tell us looking a certain way is the standard, so making the comparison between regular people to the standards of wealth and success creates a sense of insecurity.”
Others agree that the media plays a massive role in male insecurity.
“Gender differences in ‘body dissatisfaction’ are shrinking, likely because of media influence,” writes Rick Gardner, Professor of psychology at the UC Denver, in an article published by Health magazine.
Gardner states that “Men are increasingly bombarded by messages related to weight and fitness. And you rarely see a very overweight man in a TV ad or in a TV program or movie, unless they are playing the role of a buffoon or a bad guy.”
For Arana, although he agrees there is a body standard for men, he says, “it’s astronomically higher for women. Men don’t have to wear heels, or learn [about] makeup.”
Despite the little attention men receive about body insecurities, Mario supports Arana’s opinion, saying that “females get a clear message from a young age. It’s been a much longer conversation. Male body image is becoming really relevant to society because there is a higher level of access to media.”
Mario says that because of this, insecurity has become normalized.
Diego Serrano, a senior, was also insecure as a child. He says “I thought I was fat in the third grade.” He believes that someone that young shouldn’t prioritize their self image, especially if they’re still growing.
However, Serrano is skeptical of today’s body positivity movement. He says “it revolves around fake individualism and bullshit that breeds more insecurities” both consciously and unconsciously.
Serrano says that a myriad of girls he knows post “body posi” photos on their private accounts on Instagram; of those girls, he says they are not necessarily happy with themselves, but feel as though posting these photos will convince them to become body positive.
Kelly deVos, the author of “Fat Girl On a Plane” featuring in the New York Times, seconds this opinion. She writes, “The problem with today’s version of body positivity is that it refuses to acknowledge that no one approach is right for every person. One teenager might grow up to be healthy at any weight, and another might end up in the hospital.”
There’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy. Learning to love your body while simultaneously having an endangering condition sheds negative light on what the movement is genuinely about.
Serrano agreed with this statement, saying, “the way people perceive it is way different than it should be.”
Social media, although an innovative and enjoyable platform, is becoming the stimulus to deeply rooted mental struggles and body dysmorphia. All it takes is starting a conversation to confront the toxicity that attaches itself onto those who use it.