During my adolescent years, I did not know many individuals who openly shared about their struggle with eating disorders [ED]; EDs are not routinely disclosed or even acknowledged within my cultural group. However, my mother would briefly tell me about different mental health issues, including eating disorders. Overall, I believe the negative relationship between ED and Western culture is reinforced through Western media [WM] through inaccurate understanding of the causes of ED, increased stigmatization of males with eating disorders and through direct digital peer interactions.
Conventional Western media (such as magazines, movies, and TV shows) portray inaccurate depictions of ED; individuals who lack knowledge (due to lack of previous exposure or training about eating disorders; hereafter known as laypersons ) of EDs have a disordered perception of how EDs are formed. Blodgett-Salafia, Jones, Haugen and Schaefer (2015) proved there was a, “... definite contrast [existed] between how people with and without eating disorders perceive media as a risk factor for developing an eating disorder” . In their study, 47% laypersons believed media was an important causal factor (Blodgett-Salafia et al., 2015); individuals without ED, “overemphasize the role of media as one of the main cause…” of ED whereas, “those with eating disorders may not be fully aware of the media’s impact” (Blodgett-Salafia et al., 2015).
Like many WM shows, Pretty Little Liars inaccurately portray an individual with an ED; Hanna, a popular skinny character in the show, suffered from bulimia nervosa. However, the show implied Hanna “became bulimic” to achieve two goals: to make the “Hefty Hanna” moniker irrelevant and to become popular. Individ...
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...social networks create a self-perpetuating cycle of disordered eating. Cohen and Blaszczynski (2015) believed individuals with EDs’
frequent exposure to thin- ideal content on Facebook reinforces one’s own body-related concerns, eliciting cognitive biases that lead one to selectively attend to thin-ideal content on Facebook …this feedback loop serves to generate or maintain EDs [emphasis added]
The negative relationship between eating disorders and Western culture reinforced through Western media can be reversed by accurate, science-based depictions of EDs in mainstream Western media, decreasing the stigma attached to male eating disorders and decreasing the amount of negative and unhelpful exposure to thin-ideal content in SNS. Western media can be an extremely helpful tool in combating the ever- increasing prevalence of eating disorders in North American society.
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