When was the last time you checked Instagram and Snapchat? If you are anything like me in the past, your answer would be just a few minutes ago.
It was my form of relaxation and escapism from the bombardment of bad news in the world. In hindsight, however, it was more of a form of what I call ‘ironic relaxation’: trying to relax when I’m bombarded with edited photos of the seemingly perfect life of others, whilst still wallowing in my own seemingly imperfect life.
A key point in this envy is the phenomena of face/body editing. This is what the YMCA Be Real Campaign, created in partnership with Dove, is here to address.
Almost two-thirds of young people (61%) feel pressure to look their best online, with 67% of young people editing their photos before posting them
They have launched a campaign to combat attitudes to body image and our health. It unifies individuals and organisations to amplify voices of those challenging these attitudes and behaviours.
A YMCA Be Real Campaign article published in 2019, which produced a research report that spoke to 2000 young people aged 11 to 24, found that almost two-thirds of young people (61%) feel pressure to look their best online, with 67% of young people editing their photos before posting them.
Only 16% of people said that looking at social media positively affected their body confidence. In short, it is no wonder that I was feeling so bad about myself, consuming nothing but the edited and unrealistic ‘best bits’ of other people’s lives.
This type of conversation certainly isn’t new, with Instagram accounts such as @celebface, which has 1.5 million followers, exposing the editing in photos posted by celebrities, without any thought for their young followers who are so easily influenced.
However, it can feel like this conversation is still very absent when scrolling endlessly through Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
There was an increase in millennials asking for plastic surgeries that would give them the look of their edited photos
Turning to professional voices on the matter is very important to understand the psychological impacts even further. In a Betches article, Dr Jenny Taitz, a clinical psychologist, described this addiction to edited photos through a clever comparison.
She writes that “if your social network was the top 1% of wealth you would feel poor, even if you were in the top 10%” since it provides an unrealistic sample of the population.
Linking this to the rise of disordered eating, she notes the need for a radical shift in the way we perceive what we see online and what is reality. A line which is becoming increasingly blurred.
This blur is, however, also becoming a reality, as an increasing amount of people are having some form of plastic surgery to look like their edited photos.
The health correspondent for Vox, Julia Belluz, spoke to Noëlle Sherber, who runs a dermatology and plastic surgery practice, and noted that there was an increase in millennials asking for plastic surgeries that would give them the look of their edited photos.
She observed those asking for alterations that change the proportions of their face in ways which are simply not possible, and concluded that social media is creating alternate realities that are an impossibility; something that their clients needed to come to terms with.
The release of Facetune 2 in 2016, which has already had 20 million downloads and half a million people signing up to pay a monthly subscription for more features
What we do need to come to terms with, also, are the companies that have promoted this bad sense of self; for example Facetune having made, according to The Print, $18 million (over £13.5 million) from 4.5 million downloads on its original version.
It is companies such as this, those that perpetuate unrealistic body types whether that is their intention or not, that need to acknowledge they are fuelling body image problems.
So far, Facetune has made no such acknowledgment, and the release of Facetune 2 in 2016, which has already had 20 million downloads and half a million people signing up to pay a monthly subscription for more features, shows this loud and clear.
Brooke Erin Duffy, assistant professor at Cornell University, has spoken out on the effects of Facetune in an article with The Guardian. She talks of influencers feeling the need to ‘present themselves authentically whilst getting the best image possible’, hence the use of such apps.
So, what else can we do to challenge this? You can take the Body Image Pledge, put forward by the YMCA Be Real Campaign, which promotes a healthier and more authentic self. Though, also being proactive in fighting against the stereotype of an ideal body and spreading the message loud and clear to others, without tearing people down in the process, is also part of the long-term solution.
Remember, we are all humans with our own insecurities. The more we continue to fight against these ‘alternate reality’ stereotypes, the more content we will be as a whole.
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