Reality TV queen Kim Kardashian has already vowed not to stop snapping naked selfie photographs until she dies — but one psychologist claims that it is the constant exposure to these kinds of hyper-sexualized photographs that is to blame for a sharp increase in eating disorders and self-harm among young people today.
In remarks at a panel on social media at the Vogue Festival in London over the weekend, British psychologist Tanya Byron said that celebrities’ constant posting of highly-staged selfies places an enormous “pressure on women.”
“What are we saying to young women about what image do you show of yourself? It is overtly sexualized,” Byron said, according to the Daily Mail. “It feels like the feminism my mum was involved in, in the 1960s, it’s dead now. We are back to ‘What cleavage have you got?’ I just feel really uncomfortable with that.”
In the age of photo-focused social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat, the prevalence of sexualized celebrity selfies is almost boring. Everyone takes them; Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Emily Ratajkowski, Rita Ora. The list is endless.
While accepting the first-ever “Break the Internet” award at the Webbys earlier this month — for her now-famous Paper magazine cover — Kardashian used her five-word-allotted acceptance speech to make a vow: “Naked selfies until I die.”
But Byron — who serves as a child therapist on the television shows Little Angels and The House of Tiny Tearaways — says that far from just being morally uncomfortable, young people’s constant exposure to sexualized celebrity photos can lead to self-esteem issues and even eating disorders and self-harm.
“It is no accident that we are seeing a massive increase in eating disorders and self-harming in young people with the increase of social media use,” Byron said. “I do think they are linked and it does need to be thought about seriously and the curating of images has to be seen to have a massive social responsibility. In the wrong hands it can be incredibly damaging.”
Byron said it makes her uncomfortable that many of these artists’ fans are well under the age of 18 and are being constantly exposed to sexualized material. But the psychologist said it is not just young girls who are harmed by the photos.
“We are seeing more young men with eating disorders. Those numbers are really growing,” she added.
Kardashian also attended the weekend’s Vogue Festival in London, where she hosted a discussion on beauty tips and explained the benefits of getting work with her famous family every day.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum