Seeing is Believing? The Pros and Cons of Photo Editing


It’s become so easy to edit our photos. As a blogger and an Instagram addict, I think I’m lucky to have access to such a huge array of apps to help my photographs look a bit more professional.

But I wondered as I scrolled through my feed, looking at the beautiful people – with their perfect skin, perfect bodies, perfect hair – if I could make myself look a bit better.

There are tons of apps to choose from now, and they can do nearly anything. I downloaded one as an experiment when I first began to look into this, and I was amazed at what I could do – I could erase my (quite epic) under-eye bags. Smooth away the red patches on my skin. Make my eyes look a bit brighter. All for a few minutes’ work. Another app allowed me to change the shape of my face, make my eyes bigger, make my hair darker and shinier.

I looked at the photos for a moment and thought…

What is the impact of editing our selfies?

The Downside of Editing Selfies

On the one hand, it is well-documented that looking at people’s pictures on social media can have a negative impact on self-esteem for both women and men. For me, the longer I edited my photo, the more I noticed the flaws in it: the redness of the skin on my chin, for example. Suddenly I was more aware of the things that I wanted to change. It’s easy to forget that editing even goes on. Scrolling through social media, I am struck by how many women have flat stomachs but curvy waists, bums and boobs – and how many men have clearly defined muscles, big arms, and clear skin. While it is easy to presume that an advert in a magazine is Photoshopped, I don’t always remind myself that images of ‘ordinary’ people online may be altered.

Another point to make is that when we smooth our skin and change our body shapes, we erase some of the very things that make us individual. When it is so easy to obtain a certain ‘look’ that is popular at the moment, there is a danger that we can all start to look the same. In my opinion (and you may think differently), this is a shame. I find it sad that we don’t get to see uneven skin, with pores. Or different body shapes. Our flaws and imperfections are part of who we are, and it would be nice to celebrate them.

There has also been a rise in cosmetic procedures as a result of photo editing – some women are having nose and lip injections to look more like their altered selfies, could be seen as a fairly drastic (and expensive) measure with potentially permanent ramifications. Some women are even having illegal fat injections to create the curvy look that is popular on social media at the moment, with potentially damaging results.

The Bright Side of Editing Selfies

It’s important to note that this technology is amazing. It is great that we can have a photo editing app with so much power on our phones, ready to use whenever we need to. They can be quick and easy to use, too. There have been tons of times where I’ve taken the perfect photo only to find it looks like there’s a lamppost growing out of someone’s head, or something. A few swipes and those annoying little distractions are gone.

Kind of like experimenting with make-up, it can be fun to use these apps. To be able to change your hair colour to see what you would look like, to use silly filters with your friends and send them to each other – it can be a fun thing to do on a rainy afternoon. If we can learn to know the difference between edited photographs and real ones – and be okay with our natural selves as well as our edited selves – is there any harm in editing a selfie?

So, let’s turn the question over to you: what do you think? Is it okay to edit your selfies? Do you enjoy it? Or do you disagree with it? What do you think the long-term impact of photo editing might be? Let’s have a conversation – leave us a comment on our Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment on this post. We’d like to hear your opinions!

Self-esteem and social media use are just part of the many topics we cover at Revealed Projects. We are passionate about providing young people with the information they need to make informed decisions. If you are interested in finding out more about our services for young people across North Somerset and parts of Somerset, click here.

Megan BidmeadComment