How Mass Communication and Media Form Our Attitude to Self Appearance

Mass communication and media play a significant role in shaping societal attitudes towards self-appearance. In today’s digital age, where images are easily manipulated and disseminated through various media channels, the impact of mass communication on our perception of beauty and self-image is more pronounced than ever before. This essay aims to explore how mass communication and media contribute to the formation of attitudes towards self-appearance, with a focus on the phenomenon of digital manipulation. Through a comprehensive analysis of relevant literature and case studies, we will examine the ways in which digitally altered images in media influence our perceptions of beauty standards, body image, and self-esteem.

The Influence of Mass Communication on Self-Appearance

1.1 Defining Mass Communication

Mass communication refers to the process of transmitting information to large and diverse audiences through various forms of media, including television, film, print, radio, and digital platforms. Mass communication plays a central role in shaping public opinion, attitudes, and behaviors by disseminating messages and images that reflect societal norms and values.

1.2 The Power of Media Representation

Media representation of self-appearance, particularly in advertising, entertainment, and fashion industries, has a profound impact on individuals’ perceptions of beauty and self-image. The pervasive presence of digitally manipulated images in media perpetuates unrealistic beauty standards and fosters feelings of inadequacy and insecurity among viewers.


In fashion magazines and advertisements, images of models with flawless skin, slender bodies, and symmetrical features are often digitally altered to conform to societal ideals of beauty. These digitally enhanced images create unrealistic expectations for appearance and contribute to the prevalence of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating behaviors among individuals, particularly young women.

Understanding Digital Manipulation

2.1 The Rise of Digital Manipulation

Digital manipulation, also known as photo editing or retouching, involves altering images using software tools to enhance or modify their appearance. With advancements in technology and the widespread availability of image editing software, digital manipulation has become increasingly common in media production, advertising, and social media platforms.

2.2 Techniques of Digital Manipulation

Digital manipulation techniques range from simple adjustments, such as color correction and cropping, to more complex alterations, such as airbrushing, slimming, and facial retouching. These techniques allow for the manipulation of various aspects of an image, including skin tone, body shape, facial features, and overall appearance.


In the advertising industry, digital manipulation is often used to create idealized representations of beauty and perfection. Models’ bodies may be digitally slimmed, skin imperfections airbrushed, and facial features enhanced to conform to societal beauty standards. The end result is often a distorted and unattainable portrayal of beauty that perpetuates unrealistic ideals and undermines individuals’ self-esteem.

The Impact of Digital Manipulation on Self-Appearance

3.1 Distorted Perceptions of Beauty

The widespread use of digitally manipulated images in media contributes to distorted perceptions of beauty and unrealistic beauty standards. When individuals are exposed to digitally altered images that portray an unattainable standard of beauty, they may develop negative self-perceptions and feelings of inadequacy.

3.2 Effects on Body Image and Self-Esteem

Digital manipulation in media can have detrimental effects on individuals’ body image and self-esteem. Research has shown that exposure to digitally altered images is associated with increased body dissatisfaction, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression and anxiety, particularly among young people.


A study conducted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that teenage girls who frequently viewed images of thin models in fashion magazines experienced lower self-esteem and higher levels of body dissatisfaction compared to girls who were less exposed to such images. The study concluded that media exposure to unrealistic beauty standards contributes to negative body image and psychological distress among adolescents.

Case Study: The Impact of Digital Manipulation in Social Media

4.1 The Role of Social Media in Self-Appearance

Social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat, have become primary sources of image-based communication and self-presentation. The prevalence of digitally manipulated images on social media exacerbates the pressure to conform to unrealistic beauty standards and perpetuates a culture of comparison and perfectionism.

4.2 Influencer Culture and Digital Manipulation

Influencers, individuals who have amassed large followings on social media platforms, often curate and present carefully crafted images of themselves that have been digitally manipulated to enhance their appearance. By promoting idealized and unattainable standards of beauty, influencers contribute to the normalization of digital manipulation and its harmful effects on self-esteem and body image.


A study published in the journal Body Image found that exposure to idealized images of influencers on Instagram was associated with increased body dissatisfaction and decreased self-esteem among young women. The study concluded that the pervasive use of digital manipulation on social media contributes to the internalization of unrealistic beauty standards and negative self-perceptions among users.

Strategies for Mitigating the Impact of Digital Manipulation

5.1 Promoting Media Literacy

Media literacy education plays a crucial role in empowering individuals to critically evaluate and deconstruct media messages and representations of self-appearance. By teaching media literacy skills, such as analyzing media techniques and recognizing digital manipulation, individuals can develop a more discerning and critical perspective towards media imagery.

5.2 Advocating for Ethical Standards

Advocacy efforts aimed at promoting ethical standards in media production and advertising can help mitigate the negative effects of digital manipulation on self-appearance. By advocating for transparency and accountability in media representation, organizations and policymakers can encourage responsible media practices that prioritize authenticity and diversity.


The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, launched by the personal care brand Dove, is an example of an advocacy initiative that seeks to challenge beauty stereotypes and promote body positivity and self-acceptance. Through campaigns, advertisements, and educational programs, Dove advocates for realistic and inclusive representations of beauty in media and advertising.

In conclusion, mass communication and media exert a powerful influence on our attitudes towards self-appearance, with digitally manipulated images perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and undermining individuals’ self-esteem and body image. By understanding the impact of digital manipulation on self-appearance and advocating for responsible media practices, we can work towards promoting a more inclusive and authentic media culture that celebrates diversity and fosters positive self-perceptions. Through media literacy education, advocacy efforts, and critical engagement with media representations, we can empower individuals to navigate the complexities of mass communication and media and cultivate healthier attitudes towards self-appearance in the digital age.

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