Cost of Beauty: Dove Self-Esteem Project

My reaction as a member of Gen Z

Emily Rhodes

Earlier this year Dove released a 3-minute film as part of their powerful new campaign to highlight the negative effects social media has on young people’s mental health. The film tells the true story of Mary, a girl who develops an eating disorder due to the toxic beauty content she viewed on social media.

If you’ve not seen the film yet, it’s worth saying that some viewers may find it triggering.

The emotional short film is really hard hitting, showcasing the stages of Mary’s eating disorder played out to a cover of ‘You are so beautiful’. The film ends with her recovering from the illness in an eating disorder clinic, along with clips of several other mental health survivors accompanied by their parents.

As a Gen Z I grew up with social media and having a smart phone from a young age. The triggering content Mary views in the film around beauty and weight isn’t shocking to me – it’s something I’ve seen hundreds of times online. Social media is obsessed with weight, and the film shows perfectly how negative self-loathing can spiral due to damaging content online.

As someone who’s always struggled with my weight and body image, social media can be a very dangerous place. For every negative thought you have about yourself there’s hundreds of videos readily available to convince you that it’s true, all there at the touch of a button. Also, the sophisticated algorithms mean it can be difficult to get away from damaging content as it knows to show you more of the same material. It’s a vicious circle.

I do think the type of content on social media that the advert is calling out, is starting to shift – at least from what I see on the various accounts I follow. It seems to be less about fitting into a certain body ideal and having negative relationships with food, to encouraging people to have a healthy lifestyle. However, my TikTok is flooded with videos such as ‘What I eat in a day to loose x’, work-out routines and low calories meals. Although this content has a much more positive feel it’s still easy to get obsessed with the ‘ideal’ and feel inferior when you start comparing yourself to 100’s of different women.

The ending of the Dove advert which shows all the different female survivors demonstrates perfectly that it doesn’t matter your shape, size, weight, race; social media content can affect your body image and mental health.

Although social media can be positive and amazing – as someone who uses it daily and as part of my business, I do see the good – but the ‘self-regulation’ means it is open to abuse and it can pray on people’s vulnerabilities and insecurities to a hugely detrimental effect.

The final slide of the film encourages viewers to head to the Dove website and sign their petition to protect children’s mental health through digital legislation. Stopping children being able to view any damaging content including around weight is so important and could prevent negative self-views from forming that can have catastrophic consequences.

If you haven’t seen it yet you can watch here