Youth—especially the teenage years—is a period of life when an individual is especially vulnerable in terms of his or her personality being affected by the environment: peers, media, culture in general, certain events social or political events, romance, and so on. A teenager is a young man or woman who is beginning to look for his or her place in the world; not a child anymore, but neither an adult, a teenager cannot reproduce his or her childish behavioral models, and those adopted in the world of grown-ups are unavailable to him or her. So naturally, a teen addresses the world around him or her, searching for such models.
Considering the significant amount of sources of information available, a teen always struggles with what to choose from; it is great when there are people—parents, usually—who can guide this search in a constructive direction. Ironically, adolescence is also the period of “teenage riot,” when the old models of behavior and relationships with parents cease to work. So, during the period when a young person could use parental support, there is little or none. Anyways, during the period of adolescence, teenagers tend to look for new role models, including places not suitable for this: dubious Internet resources, movies, celebrities, or glossy magazines, for example.
Speaking of glossy magazines, not all of them are necessarily bad for a teenager’s development. Currently, there are many periodicals designed specifically for adolescents that publish useful materials on psychology, education, peer relationships, common insecurities, and so on. However, there are also many other kinds of magazines, some of which may be harmful even for an adult—especially those focused on lifestyle, “glamorous” and “trendy” things and events, and so on. The problem here is that such magazines rarely state anything directly; for example, you will not find calls such as, “Be slim, or you lose.” Such messages are broadcasted in a subtle and elusive manner: the brightest example is that glossy magazines rarely post photos of models with extra weight, for example. Anyways, let us look in detail at the ways glossy magazines can harm adolescents.
According to studies, perhaps the most significant malady glossy magazines imbue their readers with is a negative body consciousness. About 50 years ago, this might not have been the case, but since 1970, the amount of eating disorders among the American population has grown by 400%—most of them connected to anorexia, which means women have started feeling more and more insecure about their bodies. On average, body image is a subject of concern shared mostly by women; as stated in the Saatchi research, commercials and advertisements in glossy magazines instill women with the fear of getting old and being “unattractive.” Nowadays, by the age of 17, a teenage girl has been bombarded by approximately 250,000 body-related commercials, and considering the long-term trend of promoting skinny body images, it is not so surprising that, as stated, girls start being deceived by the images of skinny models in magazines from the age of eight. As they grow up, this anxiety tends to grow. It may sound scary, but on average, 80% of girls aged nine are already on diets. The cult of a healthy fit body has led to the increase of compulsive weight training, and steroid and dietary supplement consumption; this trend is so influential that even men, who rarely demonstrated any body-related obsessions throughout history, are becoming concerned about how they look in the eyes of fashion (Majorproject).
But why is this obsession so widespread? According to a study published in 2006, it all works due to social comparison mechanisms. Our minds engage in such a way that when we compare ourselves to someone else, we subconsciously evaluate whether we are “superior” or “inferior” to them; if we feel superior, our mind sends us a signal that “we are fine.” In this case, we feel an emotional rise, and are pleased with ourselves. However, if for some reason we feel like we are worse than people surrounding us, we experience frustration, anxiety, and our self-esteem drops. These feelings motivate us to join the endless race of becoming better than we are. Considering the aforementioned amount of commercials every person is subject to, it becomes clearer why people compare themselves not just to their surroundings, but to the idealized and photoshopped (Livestrong.com). They rarely take into account the fact that show-business and entertainment industries invest large amounts of money and work into each celebrity: makeup, cosmetology, professionally directed and executed photo sessions and videos, sometimes computer graphics—all this and many other factors make celebrities look as perfect as they appear; however, an average person simply sees an idealized image, and their mind tells them: “I am not good enough.”
As we can see, glossy magazines and fashionable commercials are not just selling something—the very manner in which they do it causes a number of disorders among common people. It is difficult to say to which extent this is done consciously (since the beauty industry and everything related to it makes copious amounts of money), but the fact is that men and women tend to feel frustrated and obsessed with their disparity connected to the standards set and promoted by glossy magazines. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to this, because they, due to the nature of their age, are in the process of seeking adult role models of behavior and new standards of life, and thus get hooked easily onto this path. Therefore, societies should pay more attention to the ways in which certain products are promoted, and to the contents of popular periodicals.
“Negative Effects from Teen Magazines.” Majorproject, majorproject-carla.blogspot.com/2013/02/negative-effects-from-teen-magazines.html.
Kramer, Meg. “The Effects of Women’s Magazines on Body Image.” Livestrong.com, Leaf Group, 18 July 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/548072-the-effects-of-womens-magazines-on-body-image/.