A Discussion Around Photo Editing on Social Media

It’s been a little while since I wrote a blog post discussing my views on social media- a topic that you all know I love to analyse. Over the past week, there have been several conversations raised amongst my friends and colleagues around Instagrammers editing their pictures and it got me thinking…

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I can say that we can all be held accountable for using the odd filter here and there. Perhaps adjusting the brightness of a picture, sharpening it, increasing saturation. You know, the standard features that come with Instagram or any other photo editing apps (think VSCO or ColorStory- my fave). However, for some- or many- it doesn’t stop there.

Now we are able to download apps that ‘correct’ our skin, including removing blemishes, dark circles and mattifying the skin. I know a fair few people who do this, some being my friends. It’s basically digital high coverage makeup, that looks pretty damn natural. Then there’s the next level of photo editing; the ability to modify our bodies and facial shape/features. We’re able to make our waists smaller, butts and boobs bigger, legs thinner and can even change the shape of our jawline! Guess what? There are more people out there doing this than you may think.

On one hand, I disagree with photo editing completely. I believe that it creates an unrealistic portrayal of the human body, leading to the insecurities of many and only a short-term ego boost for the person doing the editing. It sets social ideals that are quite possibly unattainable and prevents people from loving themselves as they are- something that I think is very important in life. However, I always like to look at both sides of an argument and over this past week I have considered the other side of photo editing. For one, we can ask, is photo editing any different from modifications in real life i.e. botox, lip fillers or having a boob job? If anything, real life surgery is more extreme. Then, there’s the mental process behind editing pictures. Why the picture was edited in the first place.

I’m not here to discuss the rights and wrongs of photo editing, but more to consider the reasons as to why people feel the need to do it. After much thought, in my opinion what it all falls down to is our insecurities and desire to be desirable. We crave the comments and the likes and if clearer skin, a smaller waist and a peachier bum means those likes will roll in then hey ho let’s go, you know… With social media booming, it’s difficult to escape comparing ourselves to others, which as this blog post highlights, isn’t always real. It’s a vicious cycle and one that can be negative for both the photo editor and the viewer.

Let’s consider this, I’m pretty sure that if a handful of people who edit their photos were asked if they had modified their pictures, only a few of them (if any) would admit to actually doing so. Now what does that say about photo editing? In general, it’s frowned upon for many reasons. However, so many people go ahead and do it anyway. Photographs are being edited to convince other people that the person looks different to how they actually do in real life- a ‘better’ version of their real self.

Be it via social media, advertising campaigns or TV shows, we live in a world where we are constantly being told what we should and shouldn’t be. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to escape. Is it any wonder that people are taking to editing apps?

Last week, I was shown three pictures of three different Instagrammers who had clearly edited their pictures. How do I know? Well for one, the walls were bent perfectly inline with their waists… Need I say anymore. Now usually I would fill with a tiny pang of anger that they are attempting to deceive their followers, which would only fuel others to possibly feel insecure that their own waists might not be as tiny. But this time I didn’t feel that. Instead, I felt sorry for them. What we need to understand is that photo editing isn’t a malicious act; it’s not being carried out to make others feel inadequate. Rather, it’s there to make the editor feel better about themselves, be that through praise from others or their own view that they look better with digital enhancements. The bottom line is, there are so so many boys and girls, men and women on Instagram and other forms of social media, who feel the need to modify their pictures before they are viewed by others. How did we come to this?

This isn’t something that is going to change anytime soon therefore the only way to conclude this post is to give a little personal advice. To anybody who is using Instagram, please do not take everything you see quite so literally. Embrace yourself, as you are and if there are things that you really do want to change, then work for it in a healthy way. To anybody editing pictures, next time you whip out your photo editing app, perhaps have a little think about why you’re actually doing it and the effect that it might have on your followers. Will this really make you feel any better about yourself? Again, if you really do want to change something, then why not try and work for it in a healthy way. I guarantee that will make you feel a million times better than any app ever will.

I urge everybody, no matter what your view on photo editing is, to embrace each and every aspect of yourself. Be confident in your own skin and encourage others to do the same. Self love will get you a lot further than you may think and if we can help others to do so along the way, then surely that’s a win-win.

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