The media's tendency to photoshop images is not something which goes unnoticed anymore. Whether it be the slimming of a waist or the lightening of a skin-tone, several magazine covers, billboards and photo shoots have come under scrutiny for airbrushing and image manipulation in the past decade. However, with over 10,000 photo-related apps available and many more constantly in development, we have to ask ourselves a question: is the media the problem anymore, or is it us?
More than 17million selfies are uploaded each week, making up almost one-third of all photos taken by people aged 18-24. Taking a selfie is innocent enough - the dangerous part is the way we pore and obsess over every image we take, zooming, cropping, editing and enhancing until we finally narrow it down to the one we deem good enough to be uploaded to Instagram. The tricks we rightfully criticise when used by professional photographers are now so easily accessible to us, making us much more aware of our features and physical appearance. And who/what is there to monitor who is using them and how excessively? All it takes is one tap on the App Store, and a 16 year old girl has been transported into a world where she can take one photo of herself and find hundreds of ways of improving it. A warmer skin tone, more contoured cheekbones, a smaller nose, whiter teeth, brighter eyes... These photo editing apps expose us to a multitude of self-improvements that we had never even considered before.
But have we overlooked the damage caused by this obsession for too long? The next generation of women are surpassing opportunities because, in this social media obsessed world, they are under the impression that taking a good selfie, manipulating it just the right amount and applying a filter, is enough to feel happy and content. Last week, I witnessed my kind, funny, intelligent younger sister go from being ecstatically excited about beginning university, to panicked, depressed and refusing to go. Her reason? The constant scouring of her future classmates Instagram accounts and the judgements and conclusions she drew from this; that she wasn't "pretty or arty enough" to go. Since when did it become okay to deem yourself "too ugly" for an education?
Social media is no longer a bit of fun or a way to stay in touch - it's a platform to PR yourself and an attempt to manipulate how others will see you. Quite terrifyingly, The Dove Global Beauty & Confidence Report reveals that lack of body-confidence is causing a whopping 79% of girls to opt out of things like trying out for a team or participating in activities with friends and family, when they don't feel confident about the way they look. In addition, the report found that 7 in 10 girls with low body-esteem say they won't be assertive in their opinion or stick to a decision if they aren't happy with their looks - something I would have deemed ludicrous until I saw my sister doubting herself and her decisions because of this very reason. An obsession with how others see us is causing us to lose touch with ourselves and to limit our worth to social media, which devaluates everything else we have to offer. Women fought for years so that we could have a voice, a vote and an education; yet here, in the 21st century, the pressures of social media are causing girls to regress. Rather than striving to be the best they can be, young girls are striving to promote an unsustainable, online version of themselves, which will only ever leave them feeling disappointed and not good enough.
At the age of 23 and with a career in Beauty PR, I am no stranger to photo editing and premeditating the way something will look on social media - it's part of my job and it's part of my generation too. The significant difference is that I'm aware of the process behind a flawless selfie or a chic lifestyle picture. I know how easy it is to take a photo of a bland cocktail at a mundane event and crop and edit it enough to make people believe my evening was fabulous. But young girls who are born into a social media obsessed generation? They only see the final result and compare it to their reality, which will never seem as glamorous or exciting. It's time to face the facts - the media isn't to blame anymore, the challenges of 21st century life and our addiction to social media are.