The Social Media Beauty Cult

Too Beautiful: The Social Media Beauty Cult

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary examines the link between social media sites that emphasize appearance with a growing incidence of anxiety, depression, and anorexia.

The film features commentary from a psychologist, a sociologist, a philosopher, a former anorexic and a female rapper. The latter has become a strong figurehead in the movement to promote natural, “self-determined” beauty standards.

All agree that women have been dissatisfied with their bodies for generations. Social media sites like Instagram tap into these insecurities by promoting a “new normal,” in which all users must look like supermodels to be rewarded with clicks, likes and emojis.

The video goes on to explore new social media sites devoted to women’s body building cults; the ubiquitous trend to portray women as objects of desire in advertising (remember “sex sells”); and the vicious online attacks directed against women who achieve public prominence in previously male-dominated fields (eg journalism, search, and government. The online attacks directed at these women are always sexualized in a way that dehumanizes them and belittles their appearance.

Typical comments they get include “You’re ugly,” “You’re fat,” “No one would want to fuck you,” and “You must suck in bed.”

Sociologically this phenomenon to relates to a mistaken belief promoted by right wing media that girls and women have “taken over” and that women are better educated and better off financially than men.

 

The Healing Benefits of Forest Therapy

The Healing Forests of India

Directed by Nitin Das (2019)

Film Review

An exquisitely beautiful documentary about the field of forest therapy – a form of healing is most practiced in India and Japan (which has 50 healing forests).

There are numerous studies demonstrating the calming effect of forests on children. Research from both India and Finland show that holding classes there makes children calmer, helps them focus better and reduces misbehavior and violence. It’s especially effective for kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Research in adults reveals that the forest environment can reduce blood pressure, heart rate, cortisol* levels, inflammation, depression, stress and anxiety. At the same time, it also improves serotonin** levels and immunity. Forest therapy has proved helpful in treating diabetes, hyperthyroidism and addictions. In young people, it helps alleviate depression and anxiety stemming from excessive social media exposure.

It makes perfect sense that people would find forests more inducive to health than overcrowded hyper-polluted cities. As one researcher reminds us, human beings co-evolved over hundreds of thousands of years with forest plants and animals. This means our bodies are programmed to thrive in the presence of other living beings.

The recommended dose of forest therapy is five hours a month.


*Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone.

**Serotonin is a neurotransmitter found in the brain and elsewhere that is believed to mediate mood.

 

Saving Your Child from an Over-Sanitized World

let-them-eat-dirt

Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Over-Sanitized World

By B. Brett Finlayy and Marie-Claire Arrieta

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill (2016)

Book Review

Let Them Eat Dirt is a down-to-earth parental guide to the latest research about the role of intestinal bacteria in preventing obesity, diabetes, autism, schozophrenia, depression, anxiety, asthma, eczema, allergies, autoimmune illness, inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome. The book also provides a lot of practical suggestions for parents seeking to promote healthy gut bacteria in their kids.

Most research points to the avoidance of antibiotics during pregnancy and the first few months of life as being most important in preventing the gut-relaed illnesses described above. In addition to recommending that expectant mothers take probiotics and give them to their infants, the authors also emphasize the importance of vaginal birth and breast feeding in transferring maternal gut bacteria to the infant. Where C-section can’t be avoided, they recommend inoculating a newborn with a swab from the mother’s vagina.

Let Them East Dirt also provides numerous tips on increasing the diversity of gut bacteria to maximize immunity. In infants and children, this is done by exposing them to a wide variety of foods and indulging their natural urge to get dirty and put things in their mouths. Finlay and Arrieta believe children are biologically programmed to engage in these behaviors to increase gut bacteria diversity.

In discussing the science behind their recommendations, they point out that only 100 species of bacteria cause human illness, out of a total of 5,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bacterial species on the planet. They also discuss the essential role “friendly” bacteria play in training the human immune system, as well as the devastating health consequences of disrupting this process through antibiotic overuse.

The part of the book I found most helpful gives useful suggestions for ways parents can work with pediatricians to safely minimize antibiotic use in their kids.