We are photoshopping our nation into self loathing
Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.
Minister Hunt, the people that have been receiving tax-payer money are contributing to the very problem that you are trying to solve.
Using stereo-typical “pretty-fit-girls” - on Instagram - to promote a government campaign for health and wellness is sending precisely the wrong message. These body dysmorphic representations give females, in particular, a false truth about wellness and weight. I know, because every day I treat the downstream effect of these false truths, and it is a worrying trend.
The federal government recently announced that it was PAUSING funding for social media influencers. Minister Hunt said: "There would need to be a demonstrated benefit... for this to recommence. This would need to include a thorough assessment and vetting process linked to improving the health of Australians”.
Minister Hunt, this is not a strong enough stance; “assessment and vetting” sounds like a cop-out. The real issue is that today’s social media platforms contribute to a rapidly escalating problem. It’s full of misleading, unrealistic and unhealthy advice which results is an obsession with body image, and consequently adoption of damaging lifestyle behaviours. Social media influencers are unqualified, unregulated and uninterested in anything but personal gain, through likes and sponsorship. And these aspirational Instagram stars don’t even vaguely resemble a typical Australian. We are not all wafer thin, with gleaming white smiles and perfect unblemished skin! We are photo-shopping our nation to self-loathing.
What I want to do through the learnings of my research is bring real solutions to everyday problems. As I have said before, the solution is always to be found in the problem itself. Much like the positive steps taken to combat the scourge of online bullying we need to act NOW to halt the emerging crisis of body-image issues that are driven by social media. The lowering age of adolescents who visit the obesity clinic is deeply concerning. What many of these people want is to “look like her” or “look like him”, in reference to an Instagram star.
If I was the healthcare professional assisting Minister Hunt I would tackle the problem in the following way:
- Firstly, by publicly acknowledging that the obesity problem is being greatly exacerbated by social media.
- Secondly, by funding and launching an active campaign to educate young people on the use of, and dangers of, social media and its effect on body image.
- Thirdly, by fearlessly taking this campaign to all schools and ensuring that its action becomes part of the curriculum
This is the greatest public health challenge of our time. A challenge that has grown many tentacles, from poor diet to sedentary living, and now to body-image issues through a distorted social media lens. The challenge will not go away unless a new way of thinking is applied, and the time for application is now, or it will be too late.