What Happened When A Group Of Teenagers Were Asked To Alter Their Portraits For Social Media

These shocking images show the effect of Facetune on a generation

Selfie Harm - Rankin

by Sofia Tindall |

We're all guilty of it: airbrushing a spot here, erasing a bit of back-fat there. Back when the idea of photo-retouching apps was introduced it seemed ridiculous, but now thanks to the accessibility of tools that smooth over your imperfections, with the brush of a finger we've become a nation addicted.

I'm no exception - I still judge warped wallpaper and brickwork (typically what happens to a digitally-cinched waistline, and a gratifying source of schadenfreude) while around me my feed has quietly become a stream of skin smoother than sandpapered plasterwork, pearly teeth and whittled-down noses. I mean it's harmless right? Maybe you shouldn't take yourself down an entire dress size, lets not go crazy here, but with tools like this the thought of a bit of espresso-esteem boosting is always an attractive option and only the touch of a button away.

By that virtue, we're all participating in the same deception. But what mental harm is being inherited by the next generation as a result?

This is the basis of Rankin's latest photography project. Entitled Selfie Harm, the portraits are part of a collaboration with M&C Saatchi called Visual Diet which explores the relationship between imagery and mental health. For the project Rankin photographed 14 British teens aged 13 to 19 and gave them back the images to edit to to the point of being 'instagram ready'.

The final product shows both pictures side by side - the original portrait next to the one edited by it's subject. 'I find it disturbing how big even the small changes are,' said Rankin 'Social media has made everyone into their own brand.' It's never been a more relevant conversation - a recent study by the institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at Essex University and University College London (UCL) showed the effects of social media were especially harmful to young girls and far more likely to cause comparison and self-esteem problems in girls who had used social media since the age of 10.

Discussing the effects of social media Rankin said 'Every platform is full of hyper-retouched and highly addictive imagery. It’s messing people up. But what’s even scarier is that there’s little or no debate happening around this. We’ve been talking about airbrushing, retouching and Photoshopping for about 15 years now. These filters are something very new and, in my opinion, a lot more dangerous.' One thing's certain, the images will make you think before you next reach for Facetune.

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