Is Media Ruining Body Image?: Interview with Ryan Sturgeon

Desiree Brightnose: So do you feel that media, as in advertising and social media, affect individual’s body image?


Ryan Sturgeon: Yeah, I believe that it has a huge impact on the way that we see ourself. And it’s a loaded question, I think I’ll answer it in a couple different ways.


With body image, a lot of times you see things in the media that don’t portray typical people. It’s very over representative looking at the kind of “perfect body”.


What everybody should inspire to be. And they don’t show a lot of imagery with people with disability, people with different body sizes and shapes, people even of colour sometimes.


And so you see a certain image and they try to sell products too, and they are kind of saying inexplicitly in their advertising, that if you look this way, you will be a better person in a certain way. So if you look this way, then you’ll have money, you’ll have love, you’ll have all the things in life that all the people want to have in life.


And so, in advertising, you have somebody that already comes into the situation where they look a certain way and then, of course, they have photoshop and various things like that. They spend hours and hours and hours trying to make this person look a certain way.


And after their many hours of trying – then they take their pictures that are all stage. And then afterward they photoshop for another few hours. And so, the outcome is very, very unrealistic. It’s not an image of a person, its an image of an ideal. And when you’re comparing ourselves to an ideal, obviously we are gonna fall short.


So I think that its a real problem is telling us that we are not good enough. If you want to have an adolescent to become depressed, give them a beauty magazine.


So I think it does hugely affect our self-image. I’ll give you a statistic, one in two teen girls according to Canadian Pediatrics Society. And one in four teenage boys have tried dieting to change the shape of their body. And so for girl, it’s a little bit different. Often times it’s to look slimmer, to look sexier and so on and so forth.


But for boys its to beef up to look more masculine. And so it’s that stereotypical masculinity and femininity thing, where a boy has to look big and muscular. And this all comes at a time when teenagers – there bodies are changing a lot. 


And they look out of proportion because of all these changes. So I think it’s even more harmful for the adolescent population for sure.


Brightnose: Thank you so much for your time, Ryan. I really appreciate it.


Sturgeon: No problem, thanks for coming by.

Is Media Ruining Body Image?

The images of perfect bodies and gleaming smiles that fill social media are being blamed for causing profound insecurities among many young people.


Adolescents has always been a time for feeling awkward and unattractive, a problem made even worse when social media posts suggest everyone else has the perfect figure.


Zachary Cullen is a student finishing his freshman year in high school, “I feel like there’s a lot of things you you feel like you need to do and need to be, I feel those things too. ” Cullen says. “In high school, it really changed because there’s a lot more people and a lot more peer pressure to look the best way you can.”


And social media isn’t helping those who struggle with body image.



On the other side of town, counsellor Ryan Sturgeon works with teens who are struggling with body issues, “One in four teenage boys have tried dieting to change the shape of their body.” Sturgeon says. “[And] one in two teen girls, according to Canadian Pediatrics Society.”


Though men are typically not the target of beauty campaigns, they are also victims to media’s portrayal of what men should be.


Todd M. Wysocki, a professor of Psychology has conducted research in his article, Male Body Image: The Best Kept Secret , “215 college men completed a body image questionnaire developed specifically for this study.” Wysocki says. “More than half indicated some level of body dissatisfaction and 86% identified a desire to change parts of their body.”


But are body positive campaigns really aiming to help those who are struggling with body image, or are they a simply a target for advertising agencies?


Campaign Backlash


Dove, a beauty company that has a well known background in promoting heart felt body acceptance campaigns – received negative backlash when they decided the create shampoo with different “body shapes” to represent the diversity of shapes.


Some consumers are not please with Dove’s philosophy behind their new product. (Photo taken from

“Our six exclusive bottle designs represent this diversity: just like women, we wanted to show that our iconic bottle can come in all shapes and sizes, too.” Dove said on
its website.


Though on the consumer side of things, Nicolle Neulist is not impressed with the product. “I don’t want fat representation in soap bottle form.” Neulist says, “I’d prefer it in a form of fat people not being systematically treated poorly.”


It seems that she is not alone, many people have taken to twitter to voice their opinion.


Photo taken from


Photo taken from

Beauty companies that campaign for body positive isn’t fighting the real problem that alot who struggle with their body image: eating disorders.


The University of Pittsburgh has researched the correlation between eating disorders and social media. “[The] subjects who spent the most time engaged with social media each day had 2.2 times the risk of developing eating disorders.” The report continues, “ [Additionally,] those who most frequently checked their social media feeds weekly carried 2.6 times the risk.”


Back in the city, Cullen is taking a more healthy approach – he has been boxing for almost a year now. “It’s not really how my body looks now,” Cullen says. “It’s how boxing makes me feel. I am more confident in myself.”