• Sabuhee Zafar

Tiktok and Body Image

Updated: Dec 1, 2020

Like every other teen these days, I’ve been spending an abnormal amount of time on a video app called tiktok. Tiktok is full of awful dance videos, comedy sketches, thrift hauls, activism etc; you name it, it’s probably on tiktok. While tiktok can be entertaining and a fantastic way to waste time, it also has an extremely toxic side that isn’t talked about enough.

In my hours of scrolling through my for you page, I noticed a concerning aspect of the app that seems to have been normalized rather than called out; an obsession with fitting the conventional beauty standard in every way. It’s no surprise to anyone that social media can definitely take a toll on people’s mental health. It causes people to feel insecure about the way they look, their lives, their clothes, etc. Social media is an entirely aesthetic form of expressing oneself. It’s heavily focused on appearances, and as a result, the people that pop up on my for-you page are almost always extremely good looking and put together - these are usually the type of videos that get views. In fact, it’s a known joke within the app that an attractive person could simply stare at the screen and get millions of views. These videos take a toll on the people watching them. In every video featuring someone skinny, pretty, or literally anyone that fits society’s outrageous beauty standard, the comment section is filled with people making self deprecating jokes about starving themselves or getting plastic surgery. These remarks are often top-comments with thousands of likes. Tiktok has become a breeding ground for people to compare themselves to the beautiful people that pop up on their screen, in fact it even encourages it. This escalates from random comments to full blown videos with hundreds of thousands of likes where people will duet a video of an attractive group of teens on a beach and show themselves throwing away their food as a “joke.” Users have made videos about fad diets to promote weight loss, and have even started promoting harmful objects that claim to make your nose smaller or your waist skinnier. These videos and comments are contributing to one of Tiktok’s largest problems: a hyped up culture that encourages people to change themselves to fit the beauty standard.

This may not seem like a revolutionary observation, and it definitely isn’t. Social media has always played a major role in forcing people to change themselves in order to fit in. However, in my opinion, tiktok takes this to a new level. Tiktok isn’t like other social media where it focuses on the basic insecurities like weight, cellulite, stretchmarks, double chins, etc. While it does feature videos discussing those issues, it also tends to hyper focus on even the least noticeable aspect of a person. In a video I came across there was a girl showing people how she makes the whites of her eyes whiter. I have never witnessed this level of obsession with appearance on any other social media app. The comments section was full of young girls complaining about having to worry about another aspect of their appearance. Tiktok’s obsession with being perfect in every single way is incredibly damaging. It places pressure on kids to change so much about themselves, and it points out flaws they’ve never noticed before. When I stumbled across a video of a girl complaining about the bump in her nose and talking about the surgery she wanted to get to fix it, I suddenly felt extremely self conscious. I have never thought twice about the bump in my nose, but after watching that video and seeing hundreds of comments agreeing, it became one of my biggest insecurities. While I think that the girl in the video had every right to talk about her insecurities, at the same time the impact her words had shouldn’t be ignored.

Our generation tends to be self deprecating and extremely hard on themselves, thus making tiktok a toxic environment for certain people. While people are allowed to create whatever content they want and comment their opinions, we have to acknowledge how all of this is contributing to a larger issue. Society's obsession with looking a specific way, for example: skinny, tall, smaller features, etc causes people to hate parts of themselves that they have no control over. People are allowed to feel self conscious and post their insecurities, but we also have to remember that everyone is beautiful, even if they don’t fit conventional beauty standards.

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