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The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

TikTok trends are doing more harm than good to women’s self-esteem

Alex Kendall

We turn to TikTok for a lot of things in today’s society: celebrity news, outfit inspiration, recipe and activity ideas and so much more. But another reason, popularized more recently, seems to be for certain negative body representations.

An example of this trend is women sharing fit checks with so-called “perfect legging legs” and workout videos showing how to achieve the “Miley Cyrus pilates arms.”

Now, I know a lot of us watched Miley Cyrus’ performance at the Grammys, but I know I wasn’t the first person to see one of these videos and think: “What the hell are ‘legging legs?’”

“Legging legs,” per TikTok’s definition, describe certain young womens’ slender physiques, particularly their lean legs. The trend seems rather ill-timed considering leggings have been around and popular since the ‘80s. Even the name itself is confusing and rather misleading —can’t any pair of legs in leggings be considered “legging legs?”

The same goes for so-called “Miley Cyrus arms.” The Grammy winner’s recent performance of her hit song “Flowers” gained traction for her open back dress and, once again, her slender physique and lean arms. The pattern is shockingly similar — leggings and Miley Cyrus aren’t even what’s trending at all. It’s just plain and simple body shaming.

All of this talk about clothing and arms and legs may sound crazy to you, but it’s undeniable how harmful these trends can be to a young and impressionable audience.

The statistics surely don’t lie either. 80% of young girls say they’ve downloaded a filter or used an app to change the way they look in photos by the time they are 13 years old, according to the Boys and Girls Club of America.

That is arguably the most harmful aspect of social media — that practically all of its content is fake or staged. Filters, photoshop, angles and AI are all used to promote a certain image: the “perfect” body or face, and we are just all expected to hold ourselves to that standard the moment we create our profile.

A user reached out to the National Alliance for Eating Disorders’ TikTok in late January after repeatedly seeing harmful and concerning content under the tags. The organization, which works hand-in-hand with social media companies like TikTok, worked to ban the hashtag #legginglegs, and put steps in place to direct viewers who searched it towards the Eating Disorder hotline.

As beneficial as this solution may be, the way that platforms like TikTok are set up could still cause more harm to these individuals based on the kinds of videos they have searched and interacted with in the past, even just one time. A young teenager interacting with a video with either tag could cause several other videos promoting unhealthy habits and body image content to be filtered their way — it’s just how the algorithm works.

Talks of dieting, unhealthy eating habits and the “ideal” body have been around for decades existing in magazines, movies and even advertisements. But according to Jillian Lampert, chief strategy officer for Accanto Health, the parent company of The Emily Program — which works in eating disorder treatment and awareness — it is practically inescapable for young individuals today because social media is simply everywhere.

These repeated harmful tags and content have created an extremely difficult issue for representatives working at companies like TikTok and other social media brands. Although flagging inappropriate content is a possibility, it is unrealistic to expect to catch all harmful content that is uploaded to the internet before others see it. 

As young people continue to enter the digital world at a time where social media trends like these are so prevalent, we as a society must think of a better approach to controlling the kinds of content that are available for them to see. 

Whether that be demanding social media companies to put stricter guidelines in place, or boycotting apps like these all together, the fact of the matter remains: these trends have to stop.

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Charlotte Ross, Copy Editor

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