19/05/2014 10:11 BST | Updated 15/07/2014 06:59 BST

Photoshopped Selfies, WTF?



Ah, the selfie. A trend that has reached fever pitch over the past few years, with the term even making its way into the OED. Most of us have tried our hand at a selfie, maybe grinning with a friend, posing at a swish event, nuzzling our cat. They've caused mad controversy, but they've also become a solid part of society, whether we, individually, agree with their presence in our lives or not. And in a way, there was something liberating about the shift in our attitudes towards photographs of ourselves. From the very British notion that wanting to share a photo of yourself where you think you look ok was 'bigheaded' or 'arrogant', to such photographs being accepted, welcomed. We've made our peace with the general concept of the selfie, if not all of the subcategories (shelfie? Give it up, guys).

But there's a new kid on the block, a toxic take on the selfie. The photoshopped selfie. I admit, they're not strictly new. Celebrities are more than familiar with them. Their careers are built on the way they look, so the retouched selfie is often just a standard protocol for them, a business procedure. And even if they take it too far (e.g. Beyonce's alleged photoshopped thigh gap), it's still overlooked in the long-run. They are their brand.

Still, the celebs aren't the real worry here. What about us mere mortals? We've all untagged ourselves in pictures on Facebook or given our lashes a fresh slick of Bad Gal before a family snap. Most of us have cropped the trash bags from the background or brightened a dark picture. But there's a difference between curating an image and self-enhancing yourself in an image. Thanks to a wave of new apps, such as Perfect365 and SkinneePix, the latter is a scarily accessible reality. Eyeshadow? Done. Slimmer arms? Check. Sunday morning selfies have gone from simply being 'Rise' filtered to give a sunrise effect, to photoshoot, magazine cover perfect.

Some might argue that apps like these are saviours. Women can get a nose job at the press of a button without paying the price, financially and physically. But stepping away from the overwhelming world of apps and phones and photographs, the debate is really about how we perceive ourselves and how we want to be perceived. That feeling of temporary satisfaction that consumes us when we see the final, edited version of ourselves on Instagram can't be healthy in the long-run. Especially when it negatively affects how we feel about what we actually see in the mirror. Numerous research projects have revealed that social networks have both positive and negative effects on our self-esteem and confidence, but this takes it to a whole new level. We have to wonder, where will it end?