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Photoshop: Altered Photos Alter Body Image

by Kate Pittignano


The Covid-19 pandemic has been accompanied by several calls to increase fitness and fears of gaining weight during the period of isolation. While it is always good to stay fit and healthy, this fixation on weight hints at a larger problem faced by today's youth: body image.


As we find ourselves with increased time on social media, one undeniable fact becomes clear; the use of photoshop on models affects body image, most frequently in a negative way. By the time girls are 13 years old, 53% of them will “feel unhappy with their bodies” and, if that is not frightening enough, 78% will feel this way by the time they turn 17. There is no doubt that the use of photoshop has contributed to these harrowingly high statistics.


Poor body image can be exacerbated by photoshopped ads and images. 80% of women report feeling worse after seeing beauty advertisements due to the unattainable standards continuously displayed. Furthermore, between Instagram, Snapchat, Television, Youtube, and more, beauty advertisements are almost unavoidable in our daily lives.


But the effects of photoshop do not end with women. As men have become to be equally sexualized in the media as women, more and more unrealistic images have become accessible to both genders. Studies have shown that men of all ages are more self-conscious on account of viewing photoshopped images, even to the point of developing eating disorders.


The practice of altering images, often cited to be misleading, has become all too common in modern-day media. Although most recognize that magazine and other images are altered significantly, another surprising reach of this idea is Snapchat filters. These kinds of seemingly harmless and fun add ons actually change one’s face slightly to fit more conventional beauty standards. Recent trends have actually led to what is now called “Snapchat Dysmorphia,” coined not only for the effect filters have on users mentally, but a new string of people asking plastic surgeons to make them look like their selfies (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/08/06/patients-are-desperate-to-resemble-their-doctored-selfies-plastic-surgeons-alarmed-by-snapchat-dysmorphia/).


Clearly, there is an issue present with the prevalence of these altered images, but the problem seems to be difficult to address. Some nations, France for example, have been able to pass laws banning the use of photoshop or other methods for altering images without the presence of a disclaimer. However, The Truth in Advertising Act, a proposed bill to congress first introduced in 2014 that set out to regulate the use of photoshop, was not able to gain the support it needed when it was first introduced, nor when it was reintroduced in 2016 (https://uclawreview.org/2017/06/21/truth-in-advertising-should-america-ban-photoshop/).


Although political participation is important, especially in times like these, many can find this approach frustrating and futile. However, there is another way to combat this potentially deadly advertising trend: buying products from companies that do not photoshop their models. Not only does this “vote with your dollar” method encourage more and more companies to make a change, but it also means less exposure to unrealistic images. 


Some companies that have taken this initiative include Seventeen magazine (https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2012/07/05/156342683/seventeen-magazine-takes-no-photoshop-pledge-after-8th-graders-campaign/) and Aerie Real by American Eagle(https://www.ae.com/aerie-real-life/2019/01/31/introducing-your-new-aeriereal-role-models/). The former of which made the switch under pressure from an online petition made by a 13-year-old girl, proving that some power still lies in our hands.


In terms of the effect of filters, there is nothing better than self-love. Remember that conventional beauty standards are constantly changing, proving that there is no inherent beauty to one thing or another. There is no harm in avoiding filters, but don’t avoid emotions. Talk to friends, family and other trusted adults, and don’t be afraid to seek mental health professionals. Never let others decide what makes you special based on arbitrary factors; once you learn to love yourself, half the battle is over.

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