The issue isn’t new, we all know by now that social media has a negative influence on body image, especially for young girls. We’re constantly told that those images we see are to be taken with a pinch of salt.
But knowing something isn’t the same as not internalising it.
These images of smooth skin, pinched waists, bright eyes, and not a so-called ‘flaw’ in sight has become so normalised – you can access FaceTune at the touch of a button. You don’t need to be a PhotoShop whizz anymore to completely alter a photo, all you need is a smartphone. The below picture took me 30 seconds to alter – smoothed skin, sharpened eyes, enlarged lips, thinner face. Just like *that*.
Dr. Luke Evans MP has drawn up a Bill which would mean social media users would have to legally label images that have been digitally altered to change how they look. Dr. Evans is a member of the Health and Social Care Committee and a GP has said that edited photos on social media are ‘fuelling a mental health crisis’ and creating a “warped view” of beauty.
Even more accessible are the Instagram filters on IG stories, you can smooth your skin, make your cheekbones higher, get rid of a double chin, add freckles, change your eye colour and more, with two taps. The charity, Girl Guiding, is also backing this proposed Bill. Through their own research, they found that around half of young women (aged between 11 and 21) use apps or filters regularly, to make photos of themselves ‘look better’ online. A statistic I’m not surprised by, but one I’m most definitely saddened by.
So, how would this law work? Can you actually monitor and police this? It would require advertisers, broadcasters and publishers to ‘display’ a warning label when bodies or faces are digitally altered and would rely on users declaring this, or other users reporting altered images without a declaration.
In the same way influencers, celebrities, and businesses are now required to put #AD or #Gifted to make sure followers know it’s a sponsored post, this would be another step towards greater transparency. In my opinion, we have the right to know whether what we’re looking at is real, or not. A similar legislation already exists in France, proving this isn’t a pipe dream – there, any ‘commercial image’ that has been enhanced must site that it’s an “edited photograph”, or companies could face a fine.
Personally, I don’t follow accounts that make me feel bad about myself, or that are obviously PhotoShopped. But, I’m an adult – who works as a Social Media Editor – I know when what I’m seeing is warped, and I know how to protect myself from being made to feel insecure by said trick mirrors. This law isn’t for me – it’s for children and teens. There’s a whole generation growing up comparing themselves to edited images.
As a 90s baby, I grew up with altered images on billboards and magazines which were damaging enough, but today’s youth have that to grapple with *and* endless social media feeds perpetuating the same beauty ideal. For them, it’s not just celebrities who are fuelling this unobtainable strive for perfection, it’s their peers, it’s the influencers of the same age that they relate to online, it’s inescapable.
Alex Light, agrees, posting on Instagram that: “Photo editing has been around a long time in traditional media, but it has become mainstream and extremely accessible recently thanks to a slew of dirt-cheap apps that are incredibly quick and easy to use and widely available.” Adding, “I think it would create relief and perspective amongst so many vulnerable individuals who use these images as a benchmark for beauty.”