Two interesting and timely studies have caught my eye.
The first is being trumpeted by the BBC after being commissioned by Radio 1 and shows that 51% of young women would have cosmetic surgery to improve their looks and a third of those who are a size 12 think they are overweight.
Young men were also found to be struggling under the pressure to “look good” and many claimed they would also consider surgery.
The second – from the American Psychological Association – claims that magazines, television, video games and music videos all have a detrimental effect on the mental and physical health of young girls because of the portrayal of young women as little more than sex objects.
I cannot say I’m surprised by the findings of either study. In today’s society image is everything, whether that is the corporate brand or the individual’s profile.
It is a damaging trend but is not new. This need to conform to what is largely a media-generated “norm” has been with us for years.
But such is the level of media saturation these days – there literally is no escape, one of the reasons why I loathe the introduction of televisions on trains travelling the Cross-City through Birmingham – that we are constantly having distorted images of beauty directed at us.
As our media consumption becomes even more sophisticated I can only see this problem getting worse.
At the risk of a shameless plug, I’m indebted to my wife (as ever) for highlighting a prime example of the mixed and misleading images and messages we are exposed to on a daily basis.
This also shows that it is not only teenagers who are struggling to conform.
So where does this leave us?
I doubt nothing much will change. We’ll still have the sexualisation of young women – only it is likely that the “stars” will get even younger – and we’ll still have young people struggling to find worthwhile role models and settling for the media manipulated singers, actors, actresses and “celebs”.
Generations of teenagers have suffered all manner of angst over the way they look. None of us have fully escaped the self doubts and even some of the self-loathing that is so often part and parcel of teenage life.
Indeed, for some the anxiety continues well into adulthood.
The difference for this young generation and arguably the one before them is the constant bombardment they are now under. From TV, to radio, to their computer screens to their mobile phones, the unrealistic “ideal” is being hammered into them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As someone once wrote: “You don’t need to buy anything to be gorgeous – you only need yourself.”