Trigger warning: Discusses body image and weight
The compelling influence that social media has on our society today has created an accessible pathway for trends to discretely pass through our everyday lives. Apps such as Tik Tok and the prominence of social media influencers have highlighted the damaging effect that body trends can have on society.
The rise of the influencer
The 21st century has vastly transformed our perspective of fame due to the impact of social media. The newfound profession of ‘influencing’ allows for anyone to be in the spotlight of fame expeditiously, for almost anything.
The role of influencing is defined as ‘an individual’s ability to affect other people’s thinking in a social community. However, the term now widely represents someone with a large following on social media, whether they choose to influence an audience or not. Influencing is mainly performed on Instagram, or more recently, Tik Tok.
TikTok, created in 2016 but rising to popularity in 2020 as a by-product of the COVID-19 lockdown, has induced an increase of influencers. In some cases, overnight, with those perceived to be ordinary members of society gaining millions of followers rapidly.
Some would argue that the Kardashian and Jenner sisters are the original influencers. Kim, Kourtney and Khloé individually have a following of up to 330 million on Instagram alone, exerting their true influence on social media users. Known for their hourglass physique; created through the cosmetic procedure of a Brazilian Butt Lift, Kim and her sisters have had a powerful hold on society for a long time.
Recently however, fans have noticed that while the Kardashians are known for their curvy aesthetic, they have publicly discussed their weight loss and noticeably, their famous curves have decreased in size. This, combined with the reappearance of the ‘heroin chic’ aesthetic proposes the harmful direction that body trends may be heading towards the near future.
The influencing impact
With millions of young impressionable teenagers admiring those with a mass following, the effect of what those in power distribute can be extreme.
Instagram is one of, if not the main source to spread these ideals to those ranging from the young age of 13. Many Instagram models make a substantial income from social media forcing a great pressure to fit into the societal standards of beauty that are trending to appeal to a larger audience. The problem is that an online identity can hugely differ from a realistic persona, where there isn’t the option to edit out imperfections in real life.
In the 21st century, not only is the conformity of plastic surgery to beauty standards a true issue but the overuse of editing software on Instagram photos creates a false perception of beauty. The normality of creating a false illusion of appearance is a growing problem in society. Through editing applications and plastic surgery, and the term natural beauty is skewed.
Body image itself has always been a prevalent issue in society, especially for young women, but the addition of social media has added another level of complexity to this topic.
The true danger of Brazilian Butt Lifts
A Brazilian butt lift, known as a BBL, is a procedure of transferring fat from either the abdomen, hips, lower back, or thighs into the buttocks to create an hourglass appearance, which has been idolised in the recent decade. While it is glamorised in our media today, the procedure is known to be very dangerous with a mortality rate of one in three thousand, the highest mortality rate of common plastic surgery procedures.
BBL procedures have greatly increased since the Kardashian sisters publicly addressed that they had undergone this procedure. While this is cosmetic, the movement has encouraged the portrayal of a variety of body types in the modelling and influencing sector.
What exactly is ‘Heroin Chic’?
The body trend of ‘heroin chic’ has resurfaced on Tik Tok in the previous months, worrying social media users about the new glamourised body type that is being idealised in our society.
The cover name of heroin chic refers to an aesthetic from the early 90s led by models such as Kate Moss, promoting the look of pale skin, dark under eyes and a thin physique alluding to the public drug use of models at the time. While drug use was not directly glamorised in the media, the life that supermodels occupied hinted at it, with magazines picturing 90s models partying and looking unhealthily slim.
The trend of the 2000s has recently dominated the fashion and beauty sector of our lives. With this has come the toxic body ideals that are once again pushed onto young, influenced members of society.
Depicted through the Kardashians’ curvy body image and the incorporation of a variety of body types in the modelling industry, it appeared that we had started to overcome the stigma that models needed to have a slim physique and follow unhealthy addictive patterns to be perceived as beautiful.
Yet even the Kardashians (particularly Khloé, Kim, and Kylie) who were known for driving up the popularity of the BBL and curvier body types now seem to be slimming down and speaking of their dramatic weight loss. Which in turn is further perpetuating this swing back to ‘Heroin Chic’. This is especially worrying considering their huge influence on beauty standards in the current social climate.
What needs to change?
With the reversal of BBLs, the glamorisation of smoking, and the popularisation of the ‘Y2k’ lifestyle through the promotion of heroin chic I fear that we may be reverting to old patterns.
As a generation, we need to inspire one another to embrace our own perception of beauty, whatever that may be. We don’t need to edit out our imperfections or get plastic surgery if we feel pressured to. In the near future, I hope that the modelling and influencing industry does not revert to the old damaging ideals we used to overlook as normal in society.