To be or not to be Barbie: What happened to being yourself

By Yubeen Lee

Published Date: 2020 / 11 / 23

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(Tufara, ‘Social Media Marketing’)

Social media has had such a detrimental impact on humans’ thoughts and introspections that it has restricted the right to freedom of thought for these and many generations to come. Over the last twenty years, new technologies have come to the fore and subsequent applications. Of these, was the rise of Facebook in 2004, Instagram in 2010, and the current era of Tiktokers. Those online communication platforms have had a massive following especially among teenagers and affected ways in which users behave, react, and communicate with one another.

Social media’s original functionality was a way of keeping a digital log such as a photo album and being able to share these and other experiences with friends by posting a photo visible to them. It then became an inexpensive method of staying in touch and also making friends across the globe. This social media platform also made possible “a sense of freedom and identity, boost[ing] ... the confidence level of individuals and cheer[ing] them up during hard times” (Jan, Soomro, and Ahmas 2017: 331). Especially so for individuals who are timid and introverted or may have difficulty interacting in face-to-face situations. However, many problems also emerged as a side effect of the media.

Due to the wide and extensive use of social media, compared to past generations adolescents nowadays rely on social platforms as the foremost tool of communication. There are less emotional interactions being made in person on these platforms which increases the propensity of users feeling isolated and depressed (Miller 1). This is due to the fact that on social media, users tend to post images that others would show interest in and ultimately envy. This, clearly, visible in the doctored images uploaded by celebrities and others considered admirable. This is how in some subcultures, the aspiration to have the perfect ‘Barbie Doll’ face has become standard others seek to emulate. They try so hard to be like these picture-perfect social media profiles. In continuously comparing themselves with these, users develop a deep sense of inferiority, low self-esteem and ultimately depression. “One hour spent on Facebook daily results in a 5.574 decrease in the self-esteem score of an individual” (Jan, Soomro, and Ahmas 2017: 331).

However, the main problem is not low self-esteem. Rather, interacting on these platforms, users review, modify, and alter their thoughts and self-identity in accordance with this doctored standard revered by subcultures on social media. Rather than developing as a unique individual, users emulate others and do not reach their full potential. This is particularly so for children and teenagers, vulnerable to manipulation in their developmental years. Using these platforms restricts their right to freedom of thought, introspection, and thereby the development of their own self-identities. Could we really say that the ‘Barbie Doll’ phenomenon is not linked to the rise of software technology? How is that self-mutilation for suicide causes an outcry yet teenagers are allowed to ‘freely’ undergo self-mutilation for ‘beauty’?

The interconnection between social media usage and a negative self-identity has led to the rise of the body positivity movement in the offering of plus size clothing and plus-size model advertising (Wirata, Made & Ira Wirasari, 2019). However, it has since been argued that this has been appropriated and commercialized. Instead, educators have been raising awareness of the harmful effects of social media usage. These along with scientists and parents all now stand in agreement that teenagers are vulnerable to social media exposure and recommend enforcing restrictions in access and usage.

Just as movies, alcohol and driving are rated +18, so too should social media be restricted to usage by people who are fully developed human beings with the right and freedom to form their own thoughts and identities, and not to enter the so-called ‘The Dream House’. Not doing so, would be to impinge upon Article 18 of the Declaration of Human Rights on the right of subsequent generations to freedom of thought, and ultimately a choice.

Works Cited
Jan, Muqaddas, Sanobia Soomro, and Nawaz Ahmad. "Impact of social media on self-esteem". European Scientific Journal 13.23 (2017): 329-341.
Miller, Caroline. "Does social media cause depression". Child Mind. org (2020).

Tufara, Weston. “Social Media Marketing – Complete Certificate Course.” Flickr, Yahoo!, 10 Nov. 2019, \
www.flickr.com/photos/184539122@N03/49043024303/in/photolist-2hHLjux-sLxaiu-diEfVd-FgasVC-8ACNVn-22GSqnF-8ACNpK-8AFTGj-22GSqo2-22DakAM-243oHWo-EgyTN2-22GSqox-g5jTWF-9ArDNj-4uG5C1-22GSqoT-8sT69i-FSCF3o-K8exev-2iPMSub-7hDpFP-SPG67K-2hHCUeC-8w6RQs-8PQ2N8-8PQ2TB-8PT7MC-8PQ2Pn-8PQ2QV-8PT7Vs-8PT7N5-8PQ33Z-5sMyLr-4UC6M7-8sT5Y6-8PT7Rb-8PT7P1-8PQ32x-8PQ2RV-8PQ2PZ-8PT7EL-8PT7Ws-8PT7X9-8PT7PC-8PQ2SV-4nTCa1-8PT7Qs-9robx3-N9mxDC.

Wirata, Made, and Ira Wirasari. "Campaign of Woman’s Self Confidence". 5th Bandung Creative Movement International Conference on Creative Industries 2018 (5th BCM 2018). Atlantis Press, 2019.

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