Everyone loves selfies.
Even people who don’t take them frequently can admit that there’s something enticing about a controlled picture. As both the subject and the photographer, you get the perk of being able to find your own best angle, lighting, and poses. Best of all, you can take as many as you want until you have the perfect one.
There’s nothing wrong with a selfie. There is, however, a lot wrong with the culture that surrounds them.
The history of over-editing and photo shopping women in advertisements has existed for decades. Women in the media are constantly cropped to reduce them to nothing but the sum of their body parts, a concept that sexualizes and objectifies women and girls from a young age. As women continuously compare themselves to the unrealistic images presented to them by advertisements and the media, they develop adverse relationships with eating and their own body image.
Social media has exacerbated all of these negative effects of women in media. Now, with the click of a button or the tap of a screen, women can edit themselves. With the popularity of selfies, not only do we control the picture to perfection, but we filter and edit them to create our own unattainable beauty standards. We create a feed of select photos to present a flawless image, all the while consuming the “perfect” content of others.
It’s no wonder that recent years have started talking about body dysmorphic disorder (BDD- or body dysmorphia) in relation to selfies and social media. This is a psychological disorder in which the individual suffers from extreme preoccupation with their physical appearance which can sometimes lead to multiple procedures to try and “fix” their perceived flaws.
While social media does not necessarily cause body dysmorphia, it is a trigger for those who are predisposed to it. One of the reasons that this is concerning is the development of a new phenomenon that has been popping up recently: Snapchat Dysmorphia. More and more frequently, people are bringing in filtered photos of themselves to be the reference for their plastic surgery. Originally developed for a bit of fun, Snapchat filters have become a little more nefarious when used in tandem with the high demands of beauty standards.
Social media images can create a viscous cycle that continues to drop the self-esteem and body satisfaction of young women. With trending hashtags such as #fitspo and celebrity endorsements of laxative diet teas, women on social media are constantly being evaluated on their physical attributes.
Utilizing social media and touching up your photos with filters isn’t exactly a bad thing, and this critique of the culture around it isn’t meant to deter you from enjoying the benefits of internet access. It is important, however, to be aware of how these products interact with humans in a very real capacity.
Social media has done a lot of good things, too. When used with resilience and as a way to spread positivity, apps such as Instagram can actually boost your confidence! Social media platforms can change the attitude that society has about women’s bodies around the world. It has created jobs for beauty gurus and body acceptance activists alike (and I do acknowledge that people can be both).
So stunt, flaunt, and express yourself as much as you want. Just remember to be a critical consumer while you’re at it!