Guest Author - Cassandra George Sturges
Advances in media technology are the root cause of modern day women’s obsession with body image that contributes to low self-esteem. Sociologist William Ogburn (1922, 1964) coined the term cultural lag to describe the imbalance between technological progress and the norms, values, and traditional beliefs that a particular group of people hold that unites a society. Non-material culture is the intangible things such as morals, ethics and how people feel about something. Material culture is objects that are tangible that we can touch such as cell phone, computers, mirrors, art, and television for example. Simply stated we first create the material object before we create the rules on how we will manipulate or use the object that is ethically fair to society in general.
For example, we created the car before traffic laws, driver’s license and age limits. Scientist created birth control methods that conflict with some religious beliefs and traditional family values. When scientist created birth control methods, they probably were not contemplating the pro life and pro choice debate. When humans first created the material objects such as the Internet, weapons of mass destruction and instruments to perform cosmetic surgery – they most likely did not or could not take into consideration how these material and technological advances would impact the values, norms, morals and beliefs that would lag behind their material inventions.
So what inventions have we created that have changed how women perceive themselves? How can we live in a society where food is readily available and women starve themselves? What could be a rational, logical reason for tolerating hunger pangs in the presence of food? How is it possible for a person to eat their food and purposely vomit to rid themselves of calories? Why would women go through the trouble of letting a doctor cut open her breasts to implant foreign objects that do not improve their ability to breathe? Why would a woman inject a chemical in her lips to cause them to swell or allow doctors to suction fat from her thighs with a vacuum? You guessed it! Advances in technology, and in particular the rise of the mass media have caused normal concerns about our bodies to become obsessions.
Nude photos of women in male magazines are different from seeing other nude bodies in the shower or on the beach. The nude bodies in the magazines are airbrushed. The birth and stretch marks have been erased and the cellulite has been deleted. Even the women themselves cannot compete with their own perfected images in the magazines. Studies show that men who frequently view adult only material are less sexually attracted to their female partners. Technology in the form of digitally altered images has created the illusion of beauty that does not project the reality of normal healthy women’s bodies.
The other advances in technology include television, digital video recording devices, the Internet, ipods, and cell phones that take pictures, digital cameras and all types of print media. Imagine standing in line at the grocery store, while waiting you notice the bikini clad models and celebrities on the cover of the magazines on the racks next to the checkout line. How does this make you feel inside? Does it make you want to suck in your stomach and take the snacks out of your grocery cart? No one directly told you that you were fat or needed to do sit ups or go on a diet; just viewing those images slowly chips away at your self esteem.
We see more scantily clad, perfect, digital images of models and celebrities than we see of the natural bodies of our own family and friends. Each time we drive to work we see illusions of beauty on the billboards; we see perfection on the television and on the pop-up ads on the Internet. People who look like us are not referred to as gorgeous or beautiful. Because we see celebrities and models all the time they become “real” to us. We then believe that we can attain their extraordinary physique and good looks with self-discipline. We begin to think that if we looked more desirable, our lives would be filled with more love, status, and wealth.
Technology has made it easy for humans to create a false mass produced image of who they are as human beings. Many people are spending huge amounts of time on Facebook interacting with people across the globe that they will most likely never meet while failing to make eye contact or engage in a meaningful conversation with the flesh and blood, real people whom they see each day. Is technology making real human bodies irrelevant?