People talk of the age of social media like it’s one massive chunk of time. But it’s not; as the technological revolution spins on like that rainbow wheel of death things grow and change and develop. Take photos. Thanks to Instagram we now upload one or two images a day, tops, and we want them to look the best they can look (mostly - there’s much to be said for the smug sorts who do mass uploads after a fun weekend away).
While the slightly older of us remember flinging onto Facebook an entire album documenting every single messy stumble of our nights out, only to get in trouble when we eventually tried to find a job, the younger generation have learned from our mistakes. And just as we all begin to filter our photos, adding different tones of light and saturation so we can make everything look Valencia-level spectacular, some of us have become so committed to flawlessness that we now do exactly the same thing with our selfies. Just more detailed. Enter the facial editing apps, where you can slim yourself, zap your blemishes, smooth your skin and even reduce your nose. These aren’t just byproducts of a filter, these are specific tools you can use to make your image that little closer to a false reality.
There are now hundreds of these apps, some deliberately sold as plastic surgery simulators, others offering ‘beauty’ as just another thing you can do to glitz up your photos, like it’s equivalent to superimposing a poo emoji on top of your head. And when the rich and famous (and beautiful) like Miranda Kerr, Beyoncé, Lindsay Lohan and the entire Kardashian family have started using these apps on the regular, it’s no wonder that the young, the pustular and less preened IRL might be turning to them too.
The problem? Well, playing god with your face can be damaging.
‘We’re now living in a kind of an era where there is just so much available at the touch of a button that will serve to dent body image in young woman, ‘Deanne Jade, the Founder and Principal for the National Centre for Eating Disorders, tells The Debrief.
‘It’s bad enough that the media Photoshops every image that comes about so that women can look at images of beauty which have nothing to do with reality and start to judge themselves negatively. Now they could start changing their appearance with this do-it-yourself Photoshopping, then all that’s going to do is plant in their own brain an image of the perfect self with which they will start to compare their real self.’
She adds that the easy-to-use interface of these apps makes them that much more friendly and accessible: ‘What often starts off as a joke can become deeply sinister and it is for that reason they will have an image in their own head of something that is perfect and every time they look at themselves in the mirror they will find themselves wanting.’
She’s got a verdict on these apps – and a proposed solution to them making people feel shit about themselves: ‘I’m sad when people have these apps. Sites like this should come with a warning and it saddens me that they don’t. They’re just making money out of peoples’ anxieties - hallelujah.’
So we tried them out to see if they could make us the exact image of beauty. And here’s what happened:
This was me before, hungover, slightly sun-slapped, taking hideous post-lunch selfies, apparently not even noticing the ketchup on my chin #dateme
I IMMEDIATELY made my face smoother, just by dragging up one toggle thing, and then I thought 'what if I made my face slimmer, too?' and then it was tiny and svelte and maybe as narrow as a foot.
After making my eyes bigger (and the app making the entire bit around my eyes bigger, too), the anti-blemish tool came in handy because, well, I did have ketchup on my chin.
But what's this? Freckles? I scrubbed and scrubbed, ridding my skin of everything that makes it my skin and not a piece of paper.
I think made my nose a bit smaller. A lot smaller. But nothing factored into the bit of skin in my t-zone where I'd been grimacing and so that stayed quite big and lumpen.
Aw! Look at this happy-clappy cartoon telling me to sort out my 'dark circles' . Whenever I tap on all of these fun features I'm told to 'tap the desired area to diminish' but I sort of think, if I desire a thing, I don't actually want it to disappear. And vis a vis the eyes, I'm cool with the dark circles. They're just like that because I have thin skin and veins under my eyes, you know, to keep my face working!
This 'look' was created by my desire to make my boobs bigger. The problem is, my boobs weren't quite in the shot so I just made them up - a lot further up - on my chest. I then realised that when it comes to volumising, I want my hair to go much bigger than my boobs. So I worked on that a bit. A lot.
The lesson we learned? When we got to the final picture, we could look back at the original with just a tap of the finger, and there was something scary about the fact that we preferred our shiny, smooth face to the ruddy weather-beaten one that we'd started with. Which was scary, because we're normally pretty content with the way we looked. It's easy to see how addictive this game could be, because it's actually pretty tricky to use it without it being really obvious what you've done. You need time, concentration and very steady fingers in order to create a 'life-like' hyper-real version of yourself that people might not suspect is edited when you share it on Instagram. Which leads us to wonder, if you're really spending hours of concentration and focus into creating the perfect selfie, what else could you be putting that time and energy in to? That's what's really scary about the whole thing...
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.