It’s said that timing is everything. That certainly held true this week with two major stories concerning media influence and manipulation, and more specifically the ongoing struggles women and girls have with body image, breaking on the same day. While the two stories hit the news cycles separately, there is no denying a connection; one that should cause all of us to be concerned about the ongoing problem of negative media influence and how damaging this is for our families, and more importantly, our children.
On Wednesday, February 16th, about the same time People Magazine posted a major expose including photos of supermodel Linda Evangelista’s botched body sculpting, Senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut introduced the Kids Online Safety Act; a measure brought about in a major way due to social media’s strong impact on young people. One of the main reasons the two lawmakers introduced the measure was directly related to social media usage among younger women. The law, among other things, would require platforms such as Tik Tok and Instagram to disable addictive features. The senators conducted several hearings last year with the leaders of tech companies along with Facebook whistle blower, Frances Haugen, who disclosed thousands of internal documents showing the social media giant knew full well, and from its own research, the harm they were inflicting.
So, what is the connection between the sad cosmetic procedure story of a supermodel and a new measure to help kids and parents deal with social media? It’s a powerful connection showing how women see themselves thanks to the countless and unrealistic images constantly presented in our culture, and the need to live up to those images. These are images and expectations experienced by even a supermodel, as Linda Evangelista explained to People Magazine.
“Why do we need to do these things to our bodies,” she asked.
Facebook, (now known as Meta) had plenty of in-house research connecting teens’ mental health issues directly to social media exposure, with young female users insisting they feel great pressure to conform to body images and body shapes of influencers. The research also found that feeling attractive and the desire to have a “perfect” image, were the top reasons for going on Instagram.
Evangelista was one of the most successful runway models in the 90’s, appearing on more than 700 magazine covers. Despite her success and beauty, she still felt it necessary to make some changes she felt would help her continue her modeling career. She is suing Coolsculpting claiming their body contouring treatment left her disfigured. She added she is tired of hiding and claims the legal action is about “recovering her confidence and sense of self.”
“The human body shares in the dignity of “the image of God”: it is a human body precisely because it is animated by a spiritual soul, and it is the whole human person that is intended to become, in the body of Christ, a temple of the Spirit.” — CCC 364
I addressed this on my radio program Catholic Connection, this morning, with my guest Dr. Meg Meeker, MD, a pediatrician, best-selling author, and leading authority on parenting, teens, and children’s health. As Christians, we’re called to be salt and light. As we enter Lent, no time like the present to conduct what I call a media reality check including:
- Taking an honest look at how much media your family consumes.
- Keeping meal times media-free allowing for real “face time” and in-person interaction.
- Utilizing parental control devices on laptops as well as cell phones.
These are just a few simple steps you can take to shine a brighter light in our often-dark media saturated culture that can wreak havoc with our minds, souls, and our bodies as well.
Click Here to listen to my interview with Dr. Meg Meeker, MD.
Resources On These Topics:
- Catholic Resources for Women – Teresa Tomeo
- Letter to Women – Pope St. John Paul II
- Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) – Pope St. John Paul II
- Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World) – Pope St. John Paul II
- My OSV Webinar on Kids & Media
- Media Addiction Blogs – Teresa Tomeo
- NOISE: How Our Media-saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families – Teresa Tomeo
- Extreme Makeover: Women Transformed by Christ, Not Conformed to the Culture – Teresa Tomeo
- Beyond Me, My Selfie, and I: Finding Real Happiness In a Self-Absorbed World – Teresa Tomeo
- Modern Media: Facing the Danger, Opportunities & Responsibilities – Streaming Video or MP3 Download, 4-Part Course
- Reclaiming Feminism: The Church’s Traditions & Teachings on the Dignity of Women – Streaming Video 4-Part Course