Being born in 1995 meant I was right on the cusp of everything. I grew up playing outside till it would get dark while my (10 years younger) baby sister grew up on her iPad. I grew up learning cursive and how to type on donated Mac computers, whereas the next generation learns to type on an iPhone before they can talk. Because of this, media and its messaging rapidly grew over the years to match the ever-growing audience.
In the early 2000s, as it became more common for every home to have a television, many programs started to pop up focusing on a reality-style like Real World, Lost, and The Simple Life versus traditional scripted drama or comedy shows. The “reality” aspect started to warp everyone’s perception of, well, reality. For me personally, it was America’s Next Top Model that left too much of a lasting impression on me. I constantly thought about wanting to be on the show and what I had to do to get there. The judges were extremely critical of the girls' appearance and weight and were consistently calling them “too big” or “fat” when these girls were a size 00. To say this affected me as an impressionable pre-teen, and a majority of the show’s audience is downplaying the consequences of how the media affects our everyday lives.
This highlights the importance of recognizing the Bullet/Hypodermic Needle Theory. The media in the 2000s was constantly showing celebrities, models, and actresses who were sickly skinny, talking about their diets, attitudes, and lifestyles. This created an entire generation obsessed with the same thing, and we didn’t know it. Then as we grew up, social media became more prominent, and these problems seemed to worsen. It felt like a competition to show off your best side to people on the internet, even if it meant altering and photoshopping pictures to create a false identity.
It hasn’t been until recently that more and more people are shedding light on the false sense of reality they have created. Now many social media influencers and some brands are stressing the importance of loving yourself, your body, and your life and not comparing it to what we are fed on social media. Using TikTok to show behind-the-scenes videos, users are showing their own pictures from Instagram and talking about what the audience does not see. Many tell stories of how the picture of them smiling on the beach was right after they were harassed, or how they didn’t eat for two days to get the body in the image we see and love. It has been breaking that wall between the media and general user to remove the needle from our skin.
While this may not be a fast-acting version of the Bullet/Hypodermic Needle Theory, it does show how severe and influential the media is. The media injected society with the idea that being this skinny was the best look to have. Dieting fads took off, weight loss pills and TV shows sprang up overnight, and these companies capitalized on the media creating and influencing people’s attitudes and thoughts on what they had to be or look like. While we are all learning to “unlearn” these behaviors and mindsets, just like being shot by a bullet, there will always be a lasting wound to tend to.