By now, it's fair to say we're all a lot better at spotting when somebody's edited their photos online. Right? We know to look out for misshapen pool tiles, or extra toes, and the usual rhetoric sees celebrities and influencers called out in the comments section, by those accusing them of a 'Photoshop fail'. But, as one body confidence influencer and writer, Emily Clarkson, has shown, there's so much more out there in the way of editing apps than just Photoshop. And it's not just celebrities and influencers using them either. So many of us are. Hell, people are even faking entire holidays now, all while sat on the sofa.
In a recent video, Emily cleverly runs through a plethora of different face-altering, stomach-shrinking, tan-boosting wizardry. The way she breaks it down really hits home: she tells Cosmopolitan UK that many of her followers have got in touch to say they didn't realise special effects could be used on videos too, as well as still images.
"Photoshop is so commonplace and has been for years, growing up I spent so much time comparing myself to people who didn't even really exist, or look like the images I saw," she explains, when asked what motivates her to create the type of content she does. "Now, apps have exploded – it's not only supermodels [being airbrushed], you even see people editing photos of their babies, which is so heartbreaking."
Which is why videos like this one, created as part of the #FilterDrop campaign started by Sasha Louise Pallari (who is passionate about stopping Photoshop in beauty product adverts) are so important.
Emily adds, "I hate the expression, but since growing in confidence and dropping the filters, I'm so much more comfortable putting myself out there and I hope it helps other people to realise [what's going on]. Because I live and breath the world of social media and body image, I know the telltale signs that show a photo has been edited, like a wobbly skirting board or overly bright eye, and I assumed everybody else did too." After posting the video on Instagram – and receiving a tonne of messages – she realised that so many on the app weren't aware of the subtle (and not-so-subtle) edits on the images and videos we see daily after all.
So, what's the solution to this tangled web of flawless skin and inflated bums that we've come to think of as a normal social media experience? There's no clear-cut answer – but a good start would be for a rule to be implemented whereby you have to declare an image has been edited, in the interest of transparency. "Like you would with an advertisement," says Emily. "Of course that'll be difficult to police, but it'd be a start." It could come sooner than we think too – a new proposed law, through which labelling airbrushed photos would be standard, has recently received support and backing from various mental health charities and MPs too. Similar legislation already exists in Israel and France.
Equally, it's important not to shame those who do feel the need to drastically alter their appearance through apps such as FaceTune or Perfect365 ("Or even the Paris filter on Instagram stories! It's so subtle and I'm guilty of using it in the past," adds Emily). Women don't wake up one day suddenly insecure about how they look, or over the size of their upper arms – we've all been consuming messages about so-called beauty ideals from day dot (from billboards and tiny shop mannequins, by watching films to overhearing family members sigh as they prod their bellies on the beach).
"The last thing we want to do is kangaroo court an individual," says Emily. From personal experience, I can add that diversifying who you follow helps a shed load too.
And what about using colour-changing filters for fun? "I like creative apps and so much of content creation is art," says Emily, adding that if you want to brighten up a gloomy sky, then that's entirely different to – to put it plainly – lying about your appearance. "Everyone has autonomy over their bodies, it's really all about the intention."
Ultimately, it's a societal issue as well as a social media and individual one. "Even creating videos where I show what all these different apps can do, and how drastically they can change your appearance, is a double-edged sword. I don't want to be inadvertently giving young people a tutorial, but I do want to help those who feel they're drowning in a sea of comparison."
And that's the crux of it all: when we start brightening our smiles and crafting abs, we're not only comparing ourselves to others (some of whom have also used apps), but to who we see looking back at us in the mirror. If we're trying to seek validation by posting a drastically altered image, how will that ever really benefit our mental health or boost our confidence? When none of it is real. It's a total mind f*ck. Emily puts it succinctly: "Believe in what's directly in front of you, not what's on a screen."
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
You Might Also Like