G.E.a.R.S Hosts Panel Discussion on Social Media

SUNY Oneonta

Daniella Fishman, Staff Writer |

The Gender Equality and Rights Society (G.E.a.R.S) club hosted a discussion panel titled “Social Media on the Mind and Body” on Feb. 18, 2020 in IRC 4. The forum was made up of seven panelists each bringing their own opinions and experiences with social media to the discussion. 

The panel opened up a conversation about the effects of social media on young users and how growing up with it has molded our generation. Three of the seven panelists were faculty members that contributed their own subjective experiences with seeing the evolution of the internet, as well as their own different fields of study. Emily Phelps from the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, Sallie Han from the Anthropology Department and Amy Hornburg-Heilveil of the Communications Department were the present faculty members. 

When the discussion first began, the panelists talked about the concept of self-image versus body image and the different meanings of the terms now that social media is involved. They spoke on how the concept of ‘body image’ is now being used by an industry that is designed to market towards the “Body Positivity Movement” while not including body-positive messages. Such as the infamous Victoria’s Secret ‘body positivity’ ad countered by Aerie’s #aerieREAL campaign. Other topics of discussion included social media versus human connection, the idea that our self-esteem is determined by how we mimic happiness and comfortability within our social media posts, the difference in content between “social media” and “traditional media,” as well as the brief but haunting “Thin-spiration” movement of the late 2000s and early 2010s. All of these topics were discussed at length by the panelists, and in the last few minutes of the discourse, it was opened up to comments from the audience who were able to voice their own opinions. To finish the conversation, Amy Hornburg-Heilveil made a comment that I found both introspective and a philosophical reminder to our generation, “Why does the world need to see every moment of your life? Why would you want the world to see every moment of your life?… And yet with social media, people are doing this to themselves… so when do you get to be you? When is your downtime, your introspective time?” When was the last time you allowed yourself to be virtually seen for how you really are, without the masking of a cellphone screen? 

The Social Media on the Mind and Body Discussion was an interesting insight into the differing opinions between generations. It also cemented a common understanding of how it might be polluting the youth. In a statement to the State Times, the G.E.a.R.s club stated, “G.E.a.R.S, or Gender Equality and Rights Society, is a club that aspires to meet the needs and concerns of all genders attending SUNY Oneonta. We aim to keep our community informed of the various gender issues still present in today’s society. Although everyone should appreciate their body every day, we host Love Your Body Week annually as a series of body-positive events to highlight the importance of doing so. This year our panel discussion was focused on the impact of social media on one’s self-esteem and body image… For attendees, we hoped to define self- and body image, while also having our panelists discuss their perspectives on how social media positively and negatively affects these aspects through trends, like and follower counts, FOMO and more.” 

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