Student: James Calligeros
Student Number: n8282561
Tutor: Judith Meiklejohn
Topic: Is generation Y 'real' or a creation of the media? Has the media created the ideal body image and what impact is it having on generation Y's health?


1st four minutes of video:

This video is of a 22 year old man, Aziz Shavershian, aka ‘Zyzz’ to his legion of online fans, who became an internet sensation after his online antics (mainly YouTube videos) and soon became an inspiration and a ‘hero’ to many young males across the world. Zyzz’s facebook fanpage now stands at 120,000 with his all of his Youtube videos nearly reaching 3 000 000 views. Zyzz referred to his body as being ‘aesthetically sculpted’, however the most desirable attribute of zyzz was his very unique, thriving personality and his extreme confidence. However, after years of steroid abuse, Zyzz died at 22 years of age of a heart attack, thus becoming an extreme cautionary tale to young males who decide to take steroids in order to obtain an ‘aesthetic’ physique.

Public Health Issue:

This artefact represents the ideal male physique and appearance, but in its own way, it poses the question, was it worth dying at 22 years of age? This essay will report on why a person like Zyzz can have such an influence on the younger generation and will investigate if it is social media sensations such as zyzz influencing young males to put their health in jeopardy by taking anabolic steroids and also to young woman in becoming bulimic and anorexic. It will investigate if generation y acts independently, or are they majorly influenced by different forms of media, to the point where they are willing to put their health, and even lives at risk to obtain this ideal image.

Literature Review:

McCabe and Ricciardello (2003) explain that adolescence is a time of enhanced physical and mental growth for teenagers and that generation Y has seen the increase of expectations on teenage girls to have the perfect, ideal body image. They also describes that the ideal female image is slim and attractive, yet maintaining full shape to the body and explain that physical appearance takes on a very important role in the process of being accepted by society and by their peers.

Before investigating the attitudes of generation Y towards body image, it is important to underline exactly what is ‘body image’, and how can it affect people during adolescents. Borzekowski and Bayer (2005) defines body image as an “internal representation of one's own outer appearance" and is influenced by biological, psychological and social factors. There are many factors which influence what the ‘ideal body image’ should look like and is often installed in teenagers during puberty due to the rapid and significant changes which take place during that period (Borzekowski and Bayer 2005).

Self-esteem and self-concept are highly related with body image (Ackard & Peterson, 2001). Poor body image and low self-esteem can cause major dissatisfaction within teenagers, in many cases to the point where unhealthy practices take place, such as disordered eating and steroids abuse (Ackard & Peterson, 2003). The ideal body for generation Y differs drastically to those of other generation, especially the baby boomers (Sands, 2000). Models in previous generations would normally weigh 8% less than the average woman, which is an immense difference from today’s models which are 23% less. (Sands, 2000).

Leone and Fetro (2007) use the example of the ‘Gi I Jo’ figurine. They explain that in the 1960’s, the figurine was quite thin and lean. However, each decade the figurine continued to grow in muscularity and muscle definition and is now built like a professional body builder with a full set of abdominals. Leone and Fetro’s study (2007) revealed that males of older generations placed less emphasis on body image, with one subject stating that during his adolescent years (1960’s), it was considered feminine and non-masculine to have an extremely muscular physique. This suggesting that generation Y places more emphasis on their body image than any other generations.

A recent study conducted by the National Eating Disorders Association (2002) showed that almost half of the 2476 subjects who were surveyed negatively evaluated their appearance and were not satisfied with their bodies, particularly in young females. The study showed that 35% of girls in middle school believed that they feel too fat and 40% believed that they feel overweight, even though the majority of the girls were in a normal weight range.

A recent Australian study involved 423 boys and 377 girls (aged 13 – 19) who completed the ‘Body Image and Body Change Inventory’ (Ricciardelli & McCabe, 2003). This study found that 12% of girls had a distorted body image and an astounding 77% desired weight loss. In the same sample, 33% showed disordered eating patterns, 57% had unhealthy dieting behaviours and 51% had weight loss attempts in the past month.

Females are not alone when it comes to dangerous behaviours to improve self-image. Research from Cohane and Pope (2001) shows that this last generation has seen the use of anabolic steroids among adolescents spread greatly, not for athletic purposes, but mainly for aesthetic purposes. The adolescent period is quite an influential period when it comes to making choices concerning health (Cohane & Pope, 2001). Teenagers who suffer from poor self-image are at a greater risk of developing dangerous health behaviours, such as Anabolic Steroid Use. They see drugs such as these as a pathway to better self-image and self-confidence (Katzmarzyk & Davix, 2001). Leone and Fetro (2007) describe the many, negative side effects of taking anabolic steroids and the risk factors involved for those who consume the drug. These side effects include negative reactions in the liver and reproductive system, fluid retention and the heightened risk of myocardial infarctions.

This poses the question as to why do adolescents continue to consume this substance while they are well aware of the short and long term risks involved? Has having an appealing physique become so important to generation Y that they are willing to risk their health and possibly their lives in order to achieve such a physique?

Could it be internet sensations such as Zyzz who are the major influence on adolescents in generation y to take steroids? Leone and Fetro (2007) conducted a survey to obtain a better understanding of why young males consume anabolic steroids. In this survey, one subject stated, “the media has a lot to do with our perceptions ... it tells us what is and what isn’t ... a lot of people listen.” Could a statement such as this be indicating that the media is majorly influencing adolescent to such a degree that they feel it is necessary to use illegal steroids?

The main limitations of these studies on steroid use and bulimic/anorexic woman are that they are confined to mainly self-questionnaires and are reliant on people’s honesty while answering (Adelheid et al, 2002). Those surveyed tend to be self-biased while answering questions and may not provide accurate answers. For example, a teenage boy answering the question, ‘have you ever taken anabolic steroids?’ may be a regular steroid user but may not feel comfortable answering yes to the question. The reason these studies are confined to questionnaires is because it would be unreasonable and illegal to gather a group of subjects and require them to take an illegal drug, such as steroids, for a certain period of time, therefore making it difficult to gather information about the issue (Lux, Andrew & Osborne, 2000). The same applies to anorexic/bulimic studies, where it would not be approved to put young woman on a bulimic diet and track the results (Lux, Andrew & Osborne, 2000).

Cultural/Social analysis:

Previous studies have shown that family and friends have a direct influence on teenagers of the Y and what they perceive as the ideal body image, however the medias influence persists and continues to dominate (Groesz, Levine & Murnen, 2002). Previous studies show that the medias effect on adolescent girls is extremely strong, with similar studies showing the media also affects body satisfaction of young males and is a major encouragement for them to partake in body changing behaviours (Groesz, Levine & Murnen, 2002).

Media can have a major impact on its audience and can have an indirect effect which alters ones views of social norms (Brown & Witherspoon, 2002). The Y generation has been the first and most exposed generation to media and technology with the average teenager being on the internet at least once every day (Brown & Witherspoon, 2002). The media strongly conveys the ideal body image, with very female few characters being overweight and are usually very slim. Brown and Witherspoon (2002) explain that 60% of female television actors are below or have and average weight, with only 7% being above the average weight. They also explain that male actors often make positive comments about thinner female characters. This is similar to commercial breaks which include very slim, attractive models promoting appearance enhancing products (Brown and Witherspoon, 2002).

Woman from playboy magazines to modelling competitions, who exemplify society’s ideal physique, often have BMI’s that below average (Katzmarzyk & Davix, 2001). The current, ideal woman’s body features a very slim body with large breasts. As mentioned earlier, the ideal female has become progressively thinner each generation, with generation Y’s ideal female physique being much lower than the average BMI (Katzmarzyk & Davix, 2001). Also, the ideal male physique has become increasingly more muscular and defined over the generations and can promote the use of anabolic steroids among young males (Leone & Fetro, 2007).
According to Taylor (2002), Effects on teenagers via media do not only occur through television, movies and magazines. Social media, mainly via the internet, have a vast effect on teenagers and how they perceive body image, with Zyzz being a perfect example. Social media goes to the extent where there are several websites which positively portray steroid use and disordered eating (Taylor, 2002). This is classified as “pro-ana” (proanorexia) and “pro-mia (probulimia) and these websites portray anorexia and bulimia as a lifestyle choice and not a clinical disease, encouraging woman of all ages to engage in anorexic and bulimic behaviours (Taylor, 2002). These websites also include bulletin boards and chat rooms for discussion of anorexic and bulimic experiences, with photo galleries of extremely thin models described as being “thinspirational” (Taylor, 2002).
The internet also contains various websites encouraging the use of anabolic steroids. One particular website ( has at least 50 people each day asking questions to other users about the use of anabolic steroids and how they should be consumed or ‘cycled’. The online phenomenon ‘Zyzz’, who many young males consider to be their hero and inspiration, would often joke about steroid use on his Facebook fan page with jokes such as ‘u wana ride a bicycle brah?’ (Riding a bicycle being slang for steroids use, due to the fact that steroids are cycled monthly.)

Artefact Analysis/ Learning Reflection:

In regards to generation Y, I believe that my artefact (Zyzz) demonstrates how different the ideal male image has changed from each generation and how social media can instil this ‘ideal body image’ in young people. I myself am I follower of Zyzz and was quite upset when I heard of his death. After showing one of Zyzz’s videos to my parents and older relatives, they were quite shocked that a young man such as Zyzz could be such an influence and straight away used the words homosexual and fake. This demonstrates how the ideal male image has differed immensely from the Baby Boomers and Generation X, who found thin males with hairy chests to be attractive (Leone & Fetro, 2007). Now its males with ‘Zyzz like’ appearances (hairless, tanned body, very masculine and defined and whitened teeth), which are most appealing to the Y generation.

By critical analysis of this topic, I have concluded that the media plays an immense role in how generation Y perceives what the ideal body image is. I have also concluded that the media can negatively affect adolescents by influencing or encouraging them to engage in dangerous body changing behaviours. After completing this assessment piece, I come to realise that although Zyzz had a positive influence on many young people’s lives (going to the gym, eating healthy and becoming ‘aesthetic’) there was also a negative element to Zyzz in which he shed a positive light on the use of anabolic steroids, and such drugs can go to the extent of potentially ruining young people’s lives. In saying that, I personally believe that television commercials, programs and movies have progressively made their characters more realistic, which can possibly eliminate the pressure young people are on to obtain the ideal body image.


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