We have a tendency to embrace what the media has to offer because the benefits that they offer us are numerous: information, news, commentary, updates, as well as reports on global events and happenings.
The media provide us information and knowledge from across the globe that are simply not possible for us to acquire within a specific locality or a single-day time frame.
The media also provides us with opportunities to seek out further information through the internet if we wish to, and jobs as well as connections are also established through their daily provision of news and updates – both online and offline.
The most important and debatable issue with the media – with the emergence and proliferation of image editing software coupled with advertising – lies with its advertising images.
While photos of news reports are often authentic and realistic, the same often cannot be said of images that are used in magazine covers and photo spread. The latter are often heavily digitally edited to enhance the aesthetic value of the photos since – from a business prospective – the main objective of a profit-motivated organisation is to draw sales. There is nothing wrong in reaping profits since revenue is required for one to stay commercially viable but in this case, reality is distorted.
Digital enhancements on the photo is – more often than not – a case of creating an idealised image perceived by the media as “beauty”, a creation far from the actual reality and appearance of the actual model used.
While responsibility doesn’t directly lie with the media (since graphic designers, image editors and advertising agencies are all involved in the production of these images), the media still serves as the ultimate distributing outlets for most of such images.
Ethics should come into play in such situations where consumers may be misled into trusting the authenticity of such images.
However, consumers have a part to play to in terms of being more discerning when establishing one’s sense of beauty. We may be bombarded with media images but it’s also one’s responsibility to educate oneself and refrain from comparing what one sees with the media’s projection of beauty.
It is interesting to note how a line between reality and idealism can fade out so easily in the light of one’s pursuit of beauty.
A delicate balance should be sought between realism and idealism. While the media may swing us in the direction of the latter, we should educate ourselves and our young through media literacy, and swinging ourselves back into balance.
What compounds the problem and makes it a double whammy is that besides projecting media’s definition of beauty on everyone we meet, there are some who also has the tendency of projecting such images on themselves.
What follows is a drastic altercation of one’s appearances and at extreme cases, resorting to cosmetic surgery is not uncommon. For those who are unable to afford or are unable to do so for personal reasons, accessories and fashion apparels are purchased to enable them to resemble models portrayed in the media.
And with researches asserting that looks and appearances enhance one’s chances at job interviews and the dating arena, it is unsurprising that people conform to media’s definition of beauty. After all, if media images are so prevalent, conforming to its images cannot be all that wrong, right?
What is gained through a conformation to media images is a sense of wrongly-perceived self, turning oneself into someone whom he or she is not. This is ironic since in the pursuit of the perfect self, we often lose ourselves.
The adage of “Just be yourself” seems to be losing its social value here, since few walk the talk these days. What seems to be perfect advice for living a happy and fulfilled life is fizzling out. When seems to dazzle in contemporary times is that “if you do not conform (to the media’s perfection of beauty), you do not belong.”
In our search for individualism, we are heading straight towards disillusioned conformism – another irony that simply cannot be ignored.
So, what then is the true loss of conforming to media images?
We lose our sense of personal identity. While we took pride in the new identity which we have created for ourselves through either cosmetic enhancements or aesthetics embellishments, we have created the opposite of we truly desire – mere caricatures of our perceived ideal selves, living in the shadows of our disillusionment.
So, be it gain or loss, we lose both ways.