Using Social Media to improve Body Satisfaction in the Transgender Community

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By: Lauren Oliver

As the world progresses into an increasingly digital age, more people than ever can find community online. Before the introduction of the Internet, many minorities and oppressed social groups lacked the ability to connect with like minded others. Due to the dangerous political and social climate, transgender individuals face widespread subjugation and violence. The importance of having access to digital communities is a matter of life and death to many trans people.

Severe body dissatisfaction, like that experienced by transgender individuals can have psychological and physiological consequences. Body dissatisfaction and self-objectification is closely tied to biology in the trans community. Many transgender individuals feel that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is their only option, but hormone replacement therapy comes with a range of adverse side-effects and not all trans people have the desire to pursue surgery or HRT. Similarly, there are many trans individuals who cannot seek HRT due to pre-existing conditions.

Media and advertising play a role in creating and maintaining social body standards. Body-centric advertising has been shown to distort the perception of body image and shape, and increase body dissatisfaction (Myers & Biocca, 1992; Lavine, Sweeney, & Wagner, 1999). Coupled with low representation of transgender individuals in popular media, this leads to a very narrow perception of transgender body types (Smith, Choueiti, & Pieper, 2016).

Social media can be used to express and share body types that are considered outside of social norms. Because social media posts/messages are mostly produced and shared by individuals, there is a higher potential that they will present more diverse representations of human bodies (Andsager, 2014). The transgender community is particularly unique because they represent a body type subgroup which is exponentially diverse, challenges the binary, and promotes body positivity and self-love.

Andsager, J. L. (2014). Research directions in social media and body image. Sex Roles, 71(11-12), 407-413.

Lavine, H., Sweeney, D., & Wagner, S. H. (1999). Depicting women as sex objects in television advertising: Effects on body dissatisfaction. Personality and Social Psychology   Bulletin25(8), 1049-1058.

 

Myers, P. N., & Biocca, F. A. (1992). The elastic body image: The effect of television    advertising and programming on body image distortions in young women. Journal of   communication42(3), 108-133.

Smith, S., Choueiti, L., Pieper, M. (2015). Inequality in 800 popular films: Examining portrayals of gender, race & LGBT status from 2007 to 2014. Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Retrieved at http://annenberg.usc.edu/pages/~/media/MDSCI/Dr%20Stacy%20L%20Smith%20Inequa      lity%20in%20800%20Films%20FINAL.ashx

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