Gemma Styles: Make Sure Your Social Media Habits Aren’t Harming Your Body Confidence

With Sadiq Khan banning tube adverts that could cause issues with body confidence, make sure you're affording yourself the same level of care online. Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins.

Gemma Styles: Make Sure Your Social Media Habits Aren't Harming Your Body Confidence

by Gemma Styles |
Published on

Still a newbie in his role as London Mayor, Sadiq Khan is making waves and cheering up your commute; a father of two teenage daughters, he’s announced that Transport for London will no longer be running adverts that could cause issues with body confidence. Yaaaas.

The ad that people are focusing on in relation to this news is the controversial Protein World posters that featured a bikini clad model with the slogan 'Are you beach body ready?' The adverts kicked off protests both in London and online, with women rightly pointing out that anybody can have a beach body… you just need to be on a beach. The new ban doesn’t blanket cover any adverts that feature people in bikinis or underwear, but is designed to block adverts that could 'demean' women or promote unrealistic or unhealthy body shapes.

Some have criticised the move, saying that Londoners are being mollycoddled and adverts like the Protein World one are displaying healthy bodies that people work hard to achieve. That’s all well and good, but asking if someone has got their body ready and then showing them what it’s supposed to look like isn’t something that I think is okay. There’s nothing wrong with promoting healthy lifestyles and exercise, but that’s not what’s happening here – the adverts in question were for 'the weight loss collection' and didn’t say anything about health benefits. This was purely a judgment on what women’s bodies ‘should’ look like – with no consideration to the wide variety of bodies that can be considered both healthy, and attractive.

I can’t fault the decision by Khan. It’s a change that has come as a result of passenger feedback and surely that means people using TfL services daily will be happy with it. The question is, can actions like this make a difference when we’re consistently bombarded with images and advertising from other angles, especially online?

Graeme Craig, Commercial Development Director for TfL, said: 'Advertising on our network is unlike TV, online and print media. Our customers cannot simply switch off or turn a page if an advertisement offends or upsets them and we have a duty to ensure the copy we carry reflects that unique environment.' This is very true. If we disagree with advertising we see in magazines or on TV, we can switch off or stop reading. What can you do if giant tube billboards are making you feel like crap? Walk two hours to work? No chance. Public transport is exactly what it says on the tin: a public service. Even thinking about the numbers of children and young people using the tube and London buses every day to get to school, imagine how they could be affected by this inherent judgment bouncing off the walls at them.

Social media is a completely different arena but does need to be thought of in this way. Consider this tube advert ban and how London’s mayor and transport network are thinking about the mental health of their passengers. Do you afford yourself the same level of care online? There’s nothing wrong with following people who you aspire to be like, or even look like, but what effect is this having on you day to day? Are the goals they make you strive for realistic? We make the decisions ourselves when it comes to our social networks; choosing which accounts we want to make up our morning scrolls. Perhaps this is a good time to think about your followed accounts and whether they make you feel better or worse.

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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