Riley’s Experience with Technology

I haven’t had too exciting of an experience with technology in relation to body image, but it definitely affected me in my preteen years (the years when life is so unfair, girls hate their awkward bodies, and ‘woe-is-me’). The problem was that technology was just starting to boom when I hit thirteen, and I hadn’t been adequately educated on how to use it. My parents had no clue what to warn me about, and my friends were not exactly the best influence. 

I like to think I experienced the normal stuff when it came to technology and my body image, but I guess I can’t be sure. One thing I did was that I took A LOT of photos of myself. I loved the feeling of getting a ton of ‘likes’ on Facebook and comments from girls saying “OMG! You are TOO gorgeous I hate you go die!” This feeling never lasted long, however, especially because those photos looked nothing like me IRL day-to-day. But it became a cycle that was hard to stop, especially when I began to have an online presence.  

Winnipeg is a relatively small city, so most teens around the same age seem to know each other. There were always the Token Pretty Girls and Totally Interesting Indie People that everyone added as a friend to stalk on Facebook. As I started posting more and more pictures, I became one of them. 

Now, this is not as coveted a spot as you may imagine. There is no secret society where we all sit around drinking champagne saying, “We made it, dear. We are cooler online than the rest.” In reality, it sucked. Now I had to work twice as hard to post a constant stream of photos of myself, and each one had to look better than the rest. I had to post the perfect mixture of funny, deep, and political statuses and tweets, because one wrong word and I would promptly be unfollowed by a Dave or an Ashley or someone else who I shouldn’t have been concerned with impressing. It was exhausting. 

The biggest concern with my body image was that I was competing with myself- I worried that I wasn’t as cool as my online persona. This led to me getting ready extensively before I left my house each day, even if I was just walking to Starbucks. 

I never really fixed the problem with my online persona, but it sort of faded away over time. High school and Facebook are so intricately intwined with one another and the impact they can have on a youth’s self image can be detrimental. I do not miss the beauty pageant-esque atmosphere of high school and I do not miss the exhaustion of taking 237 pictures of myself each day and hating them all. 

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Forums and Fat Acceptance a Positive Thing

Although there are a lot of negative messages and information on the web regarding body image (photoshop, thinspiration blogs, etc), there are a few positive elements as well!

Healthy weight loss websites like Weight Watchers Online and HealthBoards place extreme importance on their website’s forums. These forums are buzzing with activity, and some threads have over 50,000 posts! These threads are full of encouraging messages, swapping workout regimes and sharing recipes and health issues. A recent study from the journal Qualitative Health Research has found that fat acceptance blogs can improve health outcomes. 

“Having that support and feeling empowered, people slowly found that their health behaviours began to change dramatically. For example, many people suddenly felt confident to do swimming, something they would not have done before,” she said.

“People shifted their focus away from weight loss and more toward health. A lot of people started to take part in physical activity not as a way to lose weight but because they enjoyed it. Instead of pounding it out on the treadmill they start playing with their kids. It’s actually a massive shift in the way they looked at things.”

The stigma surrounding ‘fat acceptance’ is the idea that it deems it acceptable to be unhealthy and overweight. When in reality, fat acceptance blogs promote healthy lifestyles through support and encouragement. Fat acceptance is about realizing that people with all types of bodies deserve the same respect. 

Technology helps the cause through online forums! Good job, technology, you’re not all bad!

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Amber’s experience with technology and body image


Hi everyone!

To give some of my technological history, my family was not very up with the times on technology growing up. We got a computer when I was about twelve years old. I really started to use it when I was in grade six; so closer to age thirteen for me. I remember using the computer as a social networking tool. I would constantly run home to go on MSN and talk to people. The first time that technology started to affect my body image was when guys would update their MSN profile pictures to model shots of women. I remember the guy I had a crush on updated his photograph to a stunning and very well-developed woman. I recognized this update as his “ideal woman” and stared at her, then stared at myself. I was definitely nothing near her caliber of development. I recall feeling very dumb for even thinking I had a chance to have this guy when he obviously was interested in other body types than me. This was probably the beginning of when I started to recognize my own body image being influenced by forms of technology.

I obviously had watched TV and seen the ads and movies that influenced my perception of a real body of a woman, but had never had a guy I was interested in so openly replicate it. It really sparked me to pay more attention to these ads, and to try and imitate them. In my early teens I was trying to have a body like a 20 year old.

That crush dwindled, but the effect of seeing what I thought guys really valued in women didn’t. I secretly still strived to have that perfect model-esc body. The internet was a tool to do that. I began to open my world up to the influence of other people on the internet. I took their words as authority on how to get the image I wanted. I remember learning how to apply makeup through reading an online article (it probably wasn’t even a true article). Through the internet I was bombarded with “How to”s and idealized images that simply reinforced what I had already known.

Looking at images constantly of edited women really impacted my self-esteem. I was overwhelmed with how inadequate I felt. There was no level I could achieve that would have satisfied my thirst for perfection. I remember looking at pictures and crying over how I was nothing like those women. I don’t think there is a woman on the planet who has never felt that feeling.

Fast-forward to when I started using social media, I had even more moments where I saw beautiful women that made me feel bad about myself. It was very popular in grades 8-10 to edit your photos using a Facebook photo application. All the photos people would post were edited to perfection. Not only was I feeling the pressure from women I didn’t know, but also those I did know. It made me feel even worse about myself. I had to get in on the editing trend. Even when I edited my photos, I didn’t feel good about myself. I could feel how fake it truly was. Even though I knew it was all a lie, I had to keep up with everyone else. I was overly conscious of my online presence.

I remember one specific editing app that actually made it possible to make you skinner without morphing the photograph. It was possible to make legs and bellies look smaller because of how the editing worked. All you would need to do was slowly slide your mouse over the area you wanted to make skinnier, and the image would blur the outline a bit, but it gave the illusion of thinness. My description may make it sound obvious, but it was impossible to tell on the finished product. I remember staring at photographs of the legs of women I saw in advertising than looking at the photos of myself in shorts. This was the moment that I broke down and did edit one of my pictures. I even had comments that fueled my interests. People encouraged me with their praising comments on how good I looked.

Now that I’m twenty, I am over the editing of pictures. What I am still not over is the effects these images have on my body image. I am confident in my own skin, but I’m not immune to the effects of advertisements. Even though I am aware that these images are edited, it still does not remove the desire to be like that image. Hopefully this blog has helped to open some peoples’ eyes to the effects that technology and the access it has on body image.

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Body Crazy: A Rant

A large problem with technology and media today is the emphasis they place on body image. This reason this blog is able to have so much content is because of the large focus on body image in society. The media speculates whether girls are too skinny or too fat, too tanned or not tanned enough. And then technology creates apps to fix these problems for them, like Photoshop, Instagram, or the dozens of weight loss apps available on the market today. How about using this increasingly technological age for the better good? Why not use it to further the medical field or to figure out a way to end food shortages? Why are we wasting such valuable tools on such petty problems?

A great quote from Gloria Steinem sums it up:

How hard is it to be a female human being in the media? Anne Hathaway is a pretty good measure. She learned everything she could about sex trafficking and prostitution to play Fantine, and knew only too well that modern-day Fantines were probably living within blocks of the Academy Awards. As she said in her acceptance speech, ‘Here’s hoping that someday in the not too distant future the misfortunes of Fantine will only be found in stories and never in real life.’ 

Did that get coverage? No. Instead, the huge and expensive media beast speculated on her nipples. In a way, that makes Anne’s point. No wonder there are still Fantines, so many in the media think like pimps, traffickers and johns.

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Lazy Days

People are very particular in how they present themselves online. Even in their daily lives for that matter. A lot of “daily life” now occurs online, and that is creating another venue for people to advertise the “self” that they want to present. Namebrands of clothing, the way you do your hair, the way you talk, and the items you carry are all ways people present themselves. Online, there are different ways to present yourself.

One way I’ve noticed people doing is hashtagging posts on everything with phrases like: “lazy day” or something along those lines. This is their way of implying to everyone that they are just casual and look like their photograph without makeup. Everytime I see an instagram image with this hashtag I chuckle to myself. Every single picture features an image of a girl who has perfect makeup, hair and clothes. If I were to show an image of me on a lazy day (I really never would) but it would be unrecognizable to the image people are used to seeing of me. The way of putting “lazy day” implies to people that you’re carefree and natrually beautiful.

People are overly conscious of how their profiles appear to people. For example, I was often the one with a camera when I was younger, so all pictures from events were usually on my camera. After parties and what not I would go home and add the photos to Facebook. I would have girls tell me to message them as soon as the first photo goes up so they could promptly tell me which ones I NEEDED to delete. These girls were so conscious of their online profiles they didn’t want a single image that had not gone through their filter to end up on their profile. It was also a sin to tag people in photos on Facebook because then the images would be assiciated to their profile-just in case their crush was looking on their profile they didn’t want to be seen in a bad light. There was a clear way these girls wanted to be viewed as online, and they were militant about

This is a photograph that would’ve made the cut. Considering the look of this picture, I am worried as to what the other ones may have looked like…

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Model Struggles with Acne uses YouTube to Talk


r-CASSANDRA-BANKSON-ACNE-MODEL-large570Model Cassandra Bankson uploaded a video on YouTube exposing her bare skin to viewers. Bankson had struggled with acne. It had gotten so bad that she sometimes refused to go to school because of the comments people would make about her. She said she lost her drive to play with her cats, to be with her friends and her family. In her video, Bankson showed her makeup process step-by-step to help other viewers struggling with acne cover it up. Bankson added: “Makeup is a way for women to feel confident until they overcome whatever insecurities they have, so they can be beautiful with or without it”.

To watch the video click this link:

In the 10 min video, Bankson is clearly anxious and says “I’m trying to get this makeup on as quickly as possible”. It was pretty heartbreaking to watch her go over her extensive makeup routine to cover up what she calls her flaws. She is a beautiful girl with and without makeup, and it’s sad to see her so desperately try and cover up and promote other girls to do the same.

What makes this a bit disturbing is the fact that once she had posted this and gotten help from a dermatologist, she was then recruited as a model. Bankson is being praised all over the web for her bravery, but I am hesitant to award her. What she is promoting, is not to be comfortable in your own skin, she’s telling young girls and women that to be a beautiful model you should cover up. Obviously it was a brave thing to do, but her message is skewed to not promote a healthy self-image.

With websites like YouTube, there are so many platforms for young girls to hear messages to change this or that about themselves. Even the model photographs of Bankson after her acne was cleared up were completely Photoshopped. Photoshop is not only available to magazine photographers, but even to the average person. Check out this article more about it: In the article the author explains that with Photoshop there is “no more cringing at the red-eye glare of your daughter’s soccer-team picture, or stuffing the finish-line photo from your first 10K in a drawer because your hair looks like you stepped on a live wire. The best thing about Photoshop is the way it makes your everyday life look a little more, well, glamorous.”

The problem with Photoshop, as the article goes on to explain, is that “‘When we begin creating a digital reality that is impossible for real women to achieve, we stop seeing our imperfections as normal,’ says Judith Donath, PhD”.  This is the biggest problem with technology, is that with advances, it is easier to hide the editing done to pictures. Little girls growing up are striving for unattainable goals.

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Rhetorics in Technology

One of my favourite classes that I’m taking at the University of Winnipeg is Rhetorical Communication. We look at cultural texts and analyze them using different rhetorical techniques. Lately we’ve been looking at visual rhetoric and decoding iconic photographs like the ones used in the Birmingham campaign. We looked at how the context, tone, content and arrangements of these photographs sent a certain message to everyone who saw them.

This got me thinking about the rhetoric of body image in technology. What are the messages being sent to consumers of technology through, not only visual cues, but language and genre rhetoric as well?

I once read that women’s magazines have over ten times more ads than men’s magazines. The sheer size of these advertisements make them impossible to ignore. These ads tend to focus on the insecurity of women and remind them that they need to change. 

With weight loss messages in technology, the terms tend to cluster around “quickly”, “easy”, and “conveniently”. Through the use of technology, weight loss can be achieved at home in private, and easily, through Iphone apps and virtual trainers. The term “quickly” comes into play with photoshop and filtered photographs. These are quick fixes to boost body image that society tells us needs fixing.

I also noticed a reliance on pictures over words within technology. Whereas most literature on weight loss in the past was content and word heavy, body image in technology is focused on graphics and photographs to persuade. The photos are often ‘in your face’ and edited heavily. 

This just touches upon the rhetorics of technology and body image. I will continue to post relative content from my course, and I would love to hear your opinions on different rhetorical techniques used in technology and body image!

Are there any rhetorical clusters or common words you’ve noticed associated with body image in technology? What about the visual rhetoric cues?

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