For as long as I can remember, (while there is no single cause for eating disorders) magazine covers and other forms of media were always to blame for the rise in poor self-esteem and eating disorders in teenagers and young adults. (see here) They promote unachievable standards of beauty, because, well, they were hand made. The images were literally put together, smoothed out, pulled in, up, around, and down – any which way that would make the person more aesthetically pleasing.
While the fashion industry has tightened the reigns and become more aware of what kind of message they are sending to young people (with over-edited images and using models that are sickeningly thin) the technology photoshop brings to their plates in the professional world, has fallen into the hands of the “regular” people: Bloggers, social media influencers, “Instagram models”, and people like you and me.
There are tons of beauty apps in the app stores for both IOS + Android and while their intended use is innocent (I like to think) they have a way of achieving the same results in young girls and women as the photo-shopped covers of magazines do.
I downloaded one to see what it was like-
This is Beauty Plus.
Beauty Plus gives you the opportunity to smooth, correct acne, “firm”, change your skin tone, whiten your teeth or eyes, brighten, correct dark circles, slim, change your height, make your eyes bigger or smaller, make your nose more narrow, and contour your face – so, essentially, this app allows you to just completely change your face. And what’s worse, is that it doesn’t look edited at all. I put a photo from me in the Gulf through the slim option because I was in a bikini. And I completely changed my shape, and looking at the photo, you can’t tell. I mean, there’s no distortion. Unless you knew me personally, you would have no idea that I don’t really look that way?
Isn’t that amazing!? I mean, it’s unnerving, certainly, but this is frickin’ impressive. I did that with an APP. The results are misleading and it’s not a celebrity on a cover of a magazine. It’s me. Not a professional. It took 5 seconds.
Despite magazines and media having an influence on people’s opinions of what they should look like, the general public always had sort of an excuse as to why they didn’t look that way – “Well I’m not a famous celebrity. I don’t have a makeup team. I don’t have a personal trainer. I don’t get paid to stay in shape and look amazing. It’s fine if I don’t look like that.”
When we take out the celebrity factor, we give the impression that us regular people look that way, too. (and I mean, some of us do, thanks to amazing genes – but that’s beside the point.) We should be flawless, airbrushed, thin, and tanned. These apps give everyone the opportunity to spread the same message as the fashion industry and mainstream media.
With the continued rise in popularity of social media, it’s becoming more and more important for us to take matters into our own hands when it comes to how we see ourselves. We can no longer let it rely on the fact that something just isn’t real. (Ex: “I can be okay with how I look because the girl on the magazine cover is heavily edited; no one actually looks like that”) That seems to always be what people say when someone feels inadequate in comparison. “Oh, it’s not real. Why are you even looking at that?”
Thanks to these kinds of apps, there is no way to tell real from fake anymore on social media. It’s not even worth questioning at this point -it’s not worth the effort or brain power. We just have to find comfort in the fact that it doesn’t matter. We need to learn to be be confident and comfortable in our own skin regardless of what others look like in a photo. Lose the beauty apps, lose the comparison making, lose the deprecating self-talk, and maybe start experiencing a little self-love.