Monday, July 23, 2012

Teen vs Magazine

Let’s continue on the subject of perspective, which I reviewed last week adding evidence in the next posting that perspective can lead to happier outcomes, that better behavior in this dimension yields better consequences.  Now I want to take a look at one more example of how to apply perspective to current events.

A couple of weeks ago there was a wonderful news story about a 14-year-old girl from Maine successfully taking on Seventeen magazine for their practice of photo-shopping pictures of teen models.  She used an on-line petition to gather over 84,000 signatures protesting the use of manipulated images.  The complaint was that “Seventeen and other magazines put pressure on girls to emulate perfect-looking models without realizing images have been doctored.”  The outcome was a promise from the magazine to provide access to un-doctored material and “to always feature healthy girls and models regardless of clothing size.”  Advocates fighting anorexia and similar disorders applauded the move.

When I saw the news, I naturally had a slightly different reaction.  I thought, “That's great, but isn’t it too bad that so many teenaged girls (and boys) are so influenced by these and other magazines, that they turn to these sources to learn what they should look like and how they should dress?  Wouldn’t it be even more wonderful to find independent-thinking young people who don’t give so much authority to these outside sources?” 

I admit that sounds pretty unrealistic.  Teens are under tremendous peer pressure to conform to the values and expectations of their group, sometimes even bullying or shunning those who dress or act differently. 

Is it equally unrealistic, though, to expect them to grow out of this stage at some point, to become independent thinkers, to decide for themselves rather than being influenced by magazines or celebrity endorsement?  Yet, how many adults in our society follow a similar pattern, buying more, newer or more stylish houses, vehicles and toys just to impress their neighbors or to fit in with their social circle?  How many buy brand-name or designer goods, not for the higher quality, which is often not so, but for the image?  How many display advertising and logos on their hats, shirts, jackets and golf bags?  When do we mature to a sense of perspective that allows us to ignore this attempted manipulation by the marketing machines and decide for ourselves that what's considered cool or in or trending is not necessarily better and that we can be OK living by our own values, not those imposed on us by society and the pop-culture?

We should celebrate the girl who, nearly single-handedly, took on the magazine, but we must understand that there is always more power in our behavior than in any magazine and strive to exercise that power instead of blindly following the herd.

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