Lesson Plan

Social Media Images Aren't Always Real. But Their Impacts Are.

Social media literacy can help women recognize the unrealistic images posted online and their harmful effects.
Objectives

Students will be able to...

  • better identify altered, unrealistic photographs posted on social media sites, realizing that these images promote an artificial beauty ideal that negatively affects body image and related issues among women.
  • ideally become more active social media viewers, illustrating awareness of the imposed beauty ideals.
  • identify these ideals and counteract them, thus becoming more social media literate.

While society today is becoming more media literate when viewing traditional media (i.e. fashion magazines), thus understanding that most images are photo-shopped, it is less social media literate. Because social media posts are thought to come from “everyday” people (not advertising agencies, etc.), the nearly unobtainable images portrayed by Instagram fitness models, for example, seem obtainable, which is problematic for many reasons.

This activity is about 75 minutes long.

Subjects
Health & Wellness
Grades 9 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Introduction

Activity: Conversing
  • Split students into small groups (3-5 people).
  • Ask students to discuss beauty ideals that society has imposed on them.
  • Ask students to discuss where these ideals are promoted or advertised.
  • Give students five minutes to discuss within their group.
  • After five minutes, have groups share with the class what they discussed.
    • Limit large group discussion to 3-4 minutes.
Student Instructions
  • Within your group, please discuss what beauty ideals that you feel society has imposed on you.
    • Consider: Do you feel that you must look a certain way to be considered attractive? What physical features are considered "attractive" in our society today? 
  • Please also discuss where you have learned these ideals from. 
    • Consider: Who or what has communicated those ideals to you? How? What have those messages looked like?
  • Please be prepared to share your answers to the class after five minutes of small-group discussion.

2 How does Instagram Affect How We Feel About Ourselves?

  • Pass out printed copies of The Guardian article, "Young Women on Instagram and Self-Esteem: 'I Absolutely Feel Insecure'".
  • Instruct students to read the article and to make notes when finished reading about how Instagram makes them feel.
    • Allot 7-8 minutes for this portion of the activity.
  • After every student is finished, have a 5 minute group discussion where students share how Instagram makes them feel. 
    • Ask: Why do Instagram photos make them feel that way?
    • Compare and contrast responses.
Student Instructions
  • Please read The Guardian article, "Young Women on Instagram and Self-Esteem: 'I Absolutely Feel Insecure'".
  • While reading, please make note of how Instagram often makes you feel.
    • Consider: Do the women's feelings in the article match your own? If so, how? If not, how do they differ?
    • Consider: Why do Instagram photos make you feel that way?
  • If you feel comfortable, please share with the class how Instagram usage makes you feel. 

3 Why Thinking You're Ugly is Bad for You

  • Using PowerPoint slides, briefly discuss the negative effects that internalizing the beauty ideal can have on mental health. Limit lecture to 5-8 minutes.
    • Mention self-objectification (when an individual maintains an observer’s perspective of his/her own body, placing value on "observable appearance-based body attributes" [e.g., body measurements] rather than "competence-based body attributes.").
    • Also mention body surveillance (when individuals treat their bodies as mere objects for evaluation and manipulation; can have behavioral consequences, such as eating disorders).
  • To further iterate the negative effects of internalizing beauty ideals posted on social media sites, show students the Ted Talk, "Why Thinking You're Ugly is Bad for You." 
    • Video is 12 minutes and 6 seconds long.
  • Ask students to take notes during the video.
  • Discuss the video as a class.
    • Limit discussion to 10 minutes.
Student Instructions
  • After I discuss some of the negative effects that internalizing society's beauty ideal can have on mental health, we will watch a Ted Talk that further explains the consequences.
  • Please take notes during the Ted Talk and be able to discuss as a class what you've heard afterward.

4 Becoming Social Media Literate

Activity: Conversing
  • Using a PowerPoint slide, present the six concepts in media analysis that facilitate media literacy.
    • All media messages are “constructed”

    • Each medium has different characteristics, strengths, and a unique “language” of construction

    • Media messages are produced for particular purposes

    • All media messages contain embedded values and points of view

    • People use their individual skills, beliefs, and experiences to construct their own meanings from media messages

    • Media and media messages can influence beliefs, attitudes, values, behaviors, and the democratic process

      • Allot 5 minutes for this presentation.

  • Next, present various Instagram photos from "Instagram model" profiles (i.e., fitness models, influencers, etc.)
  • In small groups, have students analyze the pictures and how they were constructed. Ask them:
    • What message does this picture convey?
    • What was the purpose of posting this picture?
    • What values are communicated?
    • Is this photo selling a product, service, idea, etc.?
    • Does the post focus more on what the woman looks like or what she can do/is capable of?
    • How does it make you feel? How might it make others feel?
  • After 5-7 minutes, open up the discussion to the entire class. Have the small groups share their thoughts.
    • Allot 5 minutes for large-group discussion.
Student Instructions
  • Keeping in mind the six concepts in media analysis, please critically analyze the following photos in your small groups.
  • Consider the questions:
    • What message does this picture convey?
    • What was the purpose of posting this picture?
    • What values are communicated?
    • Is this photo selling a product, service, idea, etc.?
    • Does the post focus more on what the woman looks like or what she can do/is capable of?
    • How does it make you feel? How might it make others feel?
  • Please share with the class what your group discussed.

5 Closing: Accomplishments Over Appearance

Activity: Conversing
  • Reiterate the main points from today's lesson. Limit to 2-3 minutes.
    • The media, such as social media, reinforces unrealistic beauty ideals.
    • The internalization of these beauty ideals has many negative effects on mental health, including self-objectification and body surveillance.
    • However, the more media literate we become, the more critical we can be of society and media's artificial beauty ideals.
  • Ask students if they have any remaining questions.
  • Before leaving, make a list on the board of things that each student has accomplished -- unrelated to physical appearances. 
    • Limit to about 5 minutes.
  • Challenge the students to post about one of those accomplishments on their own social media sites.
Student Instructions
  • Please ask any remaining questions that you might have regarding beauty ideals, social media's impact on body image, or media literacy.
  • Before leaving, please feel free to share with the class some of your accomplishments that are unrelated to physical appearances. 
    • We're going to make a list of them on the board.
  • If you're feeling bold, share one of these accomplishments on your own social media sites.

6 Take Home: Additional Resources

  • Provide students with additional resources that they can access outside of class.
Student Instructions
  • If you're interested in learning more about this topic, please visit the following sites:
    • Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
    • The Representation Project
    • Beauty Redefined
    • Reel Grrls
  • Links have been provided.