How Photo Editing Applications Change The Social Media Landscape

Catfishing and similar scams have been made possible thanks to photo editing applications whereby users make themselves look a lot better than normal. Some may argue that makeup does the same thing and truth be told, there is no argument there. Millennials and the digital generation have taken makeup to a whole new level. Makeup gurus and everyday consumers are using their skills to create a whole new person – some are so talented they are able to transform into their favorite celebrities or idols. What’s more, when paired with certain apps that have a “beauty filter”, it makes them look out of this world, plain and simple.

The introduction of this “beauty filter” on various camera apps and even on certain smartphones, has allowed everyone to look better on screen than off. On one hand, it might increase one’s self confidence, on the other, it allows people and viewers to see them through rose tinted glasses and have unrealistic expectations of the person on screen and of the viewers themselves, expecting to look as good – if not better – than their peers. It is a damaging feature all around, but it hasn’t stopped such apps from rising to popularity because let’s face it: everyone wants to look good.

FaceTune is one of such apps, which has garnered so much attention that even model Chrissy Teigen weighed in on Twitter, saying: “I don’t know what real skin looks like anymore.” She goes on to mention how the skin smoothing feature is misleading and some people who don’t know any better might not realize that it’s an app behind their favorite Instagrammer’s picture perfect, flawless look, and that they might compare themselves to them and take a hit to their self esteem when they fall short.

In a generation of people who put a lot of stock into being genuine and authentic, touting that you should be as real as you can be, how are these apps which encourage a false image so popular? 

Bloggers flock to defend photo editing apps, saying that they are used to enhance images – not that different from what everyone else does. If interior designers or architects can create unrealistically beautiful mock-ups of their proposals, what is stopping bloggers or content creators from touching up their images to give it a better presentation? These professions use image editing services all the time and for legitimate use cases. Nowadays, it’s hard to find a picture that hasn’t been doctored in some way. Even National Geographic photographers make use of photoshop to help make their images pop. Therefore, in a world where everyone edits, why should you be the odd one out? You have the power to decide how much you edit your photo – whether for a little bit of color correction, removing a spot that appeared overnight, or giving yourself a digital makeover, it’s your prerogative to do what you will. Isn’t it?

There are those who use such applications excessively and apply it in what is considered a faux pas such as attempting to slim their waistlines or enlarge their backsides. A clear indicator of this is when there is warping in the image. Those who are talented in editing might get away with it, but those who do not have an eye for detail might get called out for warping a doorframe or other vertical lines in the picture which is a dead giveaway for image doctoring. Reality tv stars, the Kardashians and Jenner sisters are no strangers to these sorts of scandals. Queens of photoshop and photoshop fails, their fans have caught them editing their faces, thighs, arms, waists, to the point of being unrecognizable. A running joke is that the photo editor they hired must hate them due to the numerous times they had their photos published with an extra digit. An additional toe or extra fingers is something that fans look out for whenever the sisters reveal a new photoshoot.

Celebrities are not the only ones subject to that kind of scrutiny. It can be a random girl in class or someone you see around town – everyone is subject to being judged when they post a picture of themselves that looks like it’s been edited. People will dissect and take a closer look, pass around the picture and laugh at it and this kind of behavior looks a little too similar to online bullying.

So why do people subject themselves to ridicule and insist on editing their photos before posting them? For the likes and for one’s self-esteem. According to a makeup-artist-mommy-blogger, she says that using a photo editing app boosts her self esteem. Since she suffered from acne as a teenager, she found that airbrushing away her scars and existing acne made her feel better about herself. However, researchers have discovered that users of photo editing apps are much more unhappier with their looks than those who refuse to process their pictures. Those that use such apps are much more likely to go to a plastic surgeon to get a smaller nose, get fairer skin and basically try to emulate how they would look in their post-edit pictures.