Celebrity Social Media Influence on Adolescent Girls Body Image 

Social media portrayal has become a contesting issue for the past few years, with celebrities having a massive influence, particularly on body image. While several social-cultural factors influence body image, such as peers, social media remains the most pervasive and influential. Studies have found a consistent and significant influence of thin image media on women’s body image (Fardouly et al., 2018). Additionally, multiple types of research indicate that celebrities have heavily influenced body image and such celebrity culture harms individuals’ body perspectives (Scully et al., 2020). Social media is not merely a communication tool for young people but is an integral aspect of their lives. Social-cultural models of body dissatisfaction indicate social media as the onset of negative body image evaluation (Grogan et al., 2021). As the fundamental figures of the contemporary world, celebrities have a major influence on body image perception, particularly for adolescent girls and their mental health. While celebrities have a major role to play in the current century, they negatively influence women’s body image leading to lower self-esteem and mental health issues.

Notably, celebrity and the general populace relationship is Para-social (PS). Para-social is a one-sided relationship where people have an unreciprocated connection with fictional characters or celebrities. In parasocial relationships, people are exposed to a celebrity, leading to a sense of intimacy, perceived friendship, and identification with the celebrity (Jarzyna, 2021). Social media has provided a platform that parasocial relationship excels, with celebrities being the central figures of contemporary life. While individuals mostly developed parasocial relationships in 1800 through protagonists’ books, the late 20th century with television characters, and the 21st century with TV celebrities and Instagram influencers (Grogan et al., 2021). Given that the PS relationship is non-dialectical, controlled by the performer, and non-susceptible to mutual development, the audience member’s feelings to the celebrity remove them from the parasocial interaction. The one-sided relationship can negatively affect real relationships and feelings of inferiority when comparing oneself to the celebrity figure on various forms of social media. While PS sometimes interferes with real-life relationships, the significant effect relates to body image and self-esteem.

Social-cultural models of body image indicate that SM  causes dissatisfaction in two ways. These ways include internalizing societal beauty ideals and comparing. Regarding the latter way, social comparison theory indicates that people have an innate desire of comparison with others to gauge their standing, including physical appearance, tend to lower self-esteem ((Choukas-Bradley et al., 2021, Jarzyna, 2021). In agreement with social and cultural models, studies on media have found that the internalization of beauty standards and appearance comparison affects the association between celebrity media usage and women’s body image concerns. Most girls will inevitably fail the metrics compared to the thin celebrity leading to high negative emotions. Recent studies indicate that the negative influence of celebrity social media on body dissatisfaction is mainly due to comparison processes (Grogan et al., 2021). Celebrity in the modern world sets the standards for thin appearance norms, and women comprehend they will be judged against them. The most affected individuals in society are adolescents, particularly girls.

The contemporary celebrity audience is different from that of the past. The contemporary celebrity is based on false intimacy. The parasocial interaction influences individuals’ behaviors and perceptions. With rapid technological advancement in the 21st century, most individuals, particularly the youth, are attached to social media tools for communication, information, and entertainment (Choukas-Bradley et al., 2021). Smartphones and social media are fundamental to adolescents’ lives in the US. By 2018, 95 of young people in the US had a smartphone, with ownership nearly universal across genders, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic background (Grogan et al., 2021). 70% of youth reported using social media multiple times daily. Body image expectation was a major contributing factor to girls’ rising mental health symptoms.

Adolescence is a significant period for self-identity. Adolescents’ physical appearance is the most significant self-worth predictor (Scully et al., 2020). For girls, thinness is deemed necessary for peer acceptance. Literature suggests the time spent on SM is significantly associated with body image issues and depressive symptoms (Ho et al., 2016). However, the type of engagement while online is worthy to note. For instance, the frequency or quantity of SM use is a minor predictor of body dissatisfaction, instead, the extent of engagement in appearance-related activities.

Unsurprisingly, girls’ engagement with images is mostly on the celebrities’ social media accounts. The association between SM and body image is relevant to adolescents for different reasons. The adolescent group is the most engaged on social media, with 95% in the US having a smartphone (Choukas-Bradley et al., 2021). Second, these individuals face development issues vital for adolescence, especially social development like identity, self-worth, peer relations, and healthy behaviors. At the adolescent age, these girls might be undergoing identity crises, and many turn to celebrity appearances to inform them about these self to rescue uncertainty and forge an identity (Ho et al., 2016). Comparing the frequency and direction with the celebrities mostly leads to one’s appearance as less appealing or attractive. Studies indicate girls engage in appearance comparison than boys. Such practice is associated with body dissatisfaction and low self-esteem

Celebrity parasocial relationships with the audience allow connection more directly than the conventional television audience. The modern celebrity life draws more attention compared to their work. The social media capacity of intimacy between the celebrity and the audience via snapshots of their daily lives is often considered authentic while maintaining asymmetrical communication patterns (Grogan et al., 2021). The asymmetrical association influences the women’s perception by presenting unrealistic expectations of social comparison. Studies indicate that women with higher perceived body image discrepancies with their favorite celebrities have higher eating disorders (Fardouly et al., 2018). The higher the emotional attachment to a celebrity leads to higher body image dissatisfaction.

Other than traditional celebrities from television, magazines, and films, a new group of celebrities influencing eating disorders is the influencers. Influencers gather large followings on social based on their influential presence. Some of these influencers participate in reality shows, and adolescents and young adults are massively attached. The typical way to become an influencer among girls and young women is physical attractiveness. While celebrities have always focused on appearance-focused social comparison, SM influencers offer a potent source of upward social comparison, but their appearance is attainable to adolescents (Choukas-Bradley et al., 2021). In addition, a major segment of the SM influencers has developed around thin-aspiration, and fit-aspiration content with imagery meant to inspire viewers to be thin and physically fit. While a healthy lifestyle is to be encouraged, the draconian measures, unfortunately, promote anorexic, bulimic, and other eating disorders (Brown & Tiggemann, 2021). These influencer pro-eating disorders websites encourage members to continue losing weight and maintaining their eating disorders.

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Young women are the major consumers of fit-aspiration images. These images, with phrases or poses, are often sexually objectifying, contain only specific parts, and aim to match the current beauty ideals. Studies indicate such images harm body image, life quality, and mental health (Fardouly et al., 2018). Additionally, these sites decrease the recovery rates and, in some cases, lead to the demise of individuals suffering from eating disorders (Brown & Tiggemann, 2021). Many-if not all of these SM influencers have no medical background, and their content is easily available, making it detrimental to the average adolescent girl and young woman. Research indicates individuals tend to gravitate towards content they agree with, find appealing, or agree with their attitudes (Scully et al., 2020). Hence, women dissatisfied with their bodies and eating disorders will likely engage on these platforms. Regular view of the fit-aspiration images by influencers is positively correlated with body dissatisfaction and self-objectification.

In sum, celebrities on social media massively influence body image perception. The effect level is greater for individuals who experience a higher level of parasocial interactions. The tendency by the audience to observe how celebrities portray themselves creates unrealistic expectations and frustration with oneself. As the social-cultural model suggests, one-way celebrities affect body image is through comparison. Given that young women and adolescent girls are the major image consumers, they tend to compare their bodies with celebrities on social media. However, achieving such bodies tend to be unrealistic, causing mental health challenges and taking draconian measures such as detrimental eating disorders to achieve the societal thinness beauty standards. Women with a higher level of celebrity worship on social media tend to be more dissatisfied with their bodies. Since celebrities are an integral element in modern society, it is essential to comprehend their influence on body image and eating dosrder


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Brown, Z., & Tiggemann, M. (2021). Celebrity influence on body image and eating disorders: A review. Journal of Health Psychology, 1359105320988312.

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