Before starting my LEAP 4 project, I knew that I wanted to find a campaign that I felt would really make a difference. I came across the Mirror Messages campaign on DoSomething.org, and I knew that this was a message that I definitely wanted to take part in spreading. Having experienced it firsthand and witnessing the same thing happen to many of my friends, I know that having a negative body image is something that is a huge problem for women. Society promotes a certain standard of beauty, and it is easy to feel discouraged by not fitting that standard. It is my goal through creating propaganda for this campaign to spread body positivity and encourage women to find their own standard of beauty.
The Mirror Messages campaign aims to spread positivity in schools and promote a healthy body image by posting encouraging sticky notes on mirrors in bathrooms. According to DoSomething.org, about 53% of American girls are unhappy with their bodies by the time they reach the age of 13. It only gets worse from there; by age 17, 78% are dissatisfied with their body. This comes as a result of a number of different factors, but one of the most significant problems is how the media portrays women. A study on the effects of the Internet on body image found that among 13-15-year-old girls, body image concerns increased with the time spent on online and Facebook usage (Tiggeman & Slater, 2013).
In addition to societal pressures to look a certain way, teens who are overweight are also experiencing bullying from their peers. A lot of this bullying takes place at school, as well as online due to the growing popularity of social media. Bullying that is directly related to body size/weight can lead to increased depression, anxiety, and risk of eating disorders. Because body image is such a sensitive topic for young women, the Mirror Messages campaign is incredibly significant in that it encourages girls to have positive feelings when looking at themselves in the mirror. Bernays said, “…approval of the public is essential to any large undertaking. Hence a laudable movement may be lost unless it impresses itself on the public mind,” (Bernays, 53.) In recent years, women have been redefining what it means to be beautiful, giving this campaign the perfect context to make a significant difference. Because the issue of impossible beauty standards is something that is already in the minds of the public, the audience for the Mirror Messages campaign will be more than willing to join in on the movement.
The main goal of my campaign is to raise awareness about the Mirror Messages movement by encouraging people to create and share their own messages and encourage others to do the same. In order to accomplish this, I created an infographic to give my audience a clear idea of the problem and what they can do to help, as well as an Instagram page dedicated to posts with Mirror Messages. I encouraged my audience to share their content with the hashtag #mirrormessages in order to raise awareness of the campaign itself. Because social media is part of the problem in creating low self-esteem among young women, I thought it would be beneficial to counteract that negativity through posting photos of young women writing positive messages for others.
Throughout the course of the semester, we discussed how positive imagery in propaganda can be a useful tool in influencing audience opinions and behaviors. In creating my two pieces of propaganda for this campaign, I really wanted to present the campaign in a positive light. In order to do this, I focused less on the negative information (such as the statistics about bullying and body dissatisfaction) and more on the campaign itself. When creating my infographic, I evoked an emotional response from my audience by presenting them with the problem of low self-esteem from girls that comes as a result of poor body image. This is a problem that most women can relate to; everyone has had a point in their lives where they have not felt beautiful. Following the negative statistics, I placed an emphasis on what the audience themselves can do to help reverse the negativity that young girls feel when looking in the mirror. I also used the tactic of simplifying information in my infographic by limiting the number of statistics and using short sections of writing to get the main point across. By emphasizing the ease with which the audience can get involved in the movement, I made it more appealing to them.
When creating the Instagram for this campaign, I recalled Helene Joffe’s work stating that visuals are crucial to draw an audience in and that they are known to send people down emotive pathways. She noted that visuals force people to engage with their own emotions. Using this to my advantage, I created 7 Instagram posts focusing on the emotional aspect of the messages depicted in the photos. I also used the captions to highlight how others viewing the message will respond emotionally to seeing post-it notes with positive affirmations on them in unexpected locations. My goal through using these two forms of propaganda is to spread body positivity and affirmations across social media, to let young girls know that they are their own kind of beautiful.
Throughout this course, we have learned a lot about how significant propaganda is in our society. We discovered how quickly content can spread, whether it be trustworthy or a form of “fake news.” While most people associate propaganda with deception and disinformation, I have learned throughout the semester that propaganda can also be used to spread a positive message. It is important to pay attention to how information is being presented, as well as take into consideration who the audience is that will be consuming the content. I applied my knowledge from the course to this project, and as a result, created a piece of beneficial propaganda aimed to spread positivity and encourage young women to be kind not only to themselves but to others as well.
Bernays, E. L., & Miller, M. C. (2004). Propaganda. New York: Ig Publishing.
Joffe, H. (2008). The Power of Visual Material: Persuasion, Emotion and Identification. Los Angeles, London, New Delhi and Singapore: Sage.
Mirror Messages. (n.d.). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.dosomething.org/us/campaigns/mirror-messages?source=node/3307
Tiggemann M, Slater A. Netgirls: the internet, facebook, and body image concern in adolescent girls. Int J Eat Disord. 2013;46(6):630–633. [PubMed]