Photo editing apps spark debate on social media

Before (left) and after (right) selfie edited using the facetune app. With new apps like facetune individulas can easily edit their photos before posting them to social media. (Nicole Hale)
Before (left) and after (right) selfie edited using the Facetune app. With new apps like Facetune individulas can easily edit their photos before posting them to social media. (Nicole Hale)

Supermodel Chrissy Teigen recently posted a picture to her Instagram account, showing stretch marks on her thighs, that generated more than 10,000 comments and sparked a debate about photo editing in social media.

The stretch marks could have been edited out, but unlike most celebrities, Teigen decided to leave her photo untouched. The majority of the photo’s feedback was positive and led to an interview with Meredith Viera about her decision to go unedited.

“I have those apps, the Facetune and Photoshopping ones, and I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore, and I’m never doing it again, because I think we forget what normal people look like now,” Teigen said. “The standard is so ridiculous. It’s gotten to the point where they’re not just smoothing their skin anymore, they’re actually changing the shape of their body.”

The buzz around retouching images normally deals with the over-editing of high-profile photo shoots and magazine covers; however, now anyone with a smartphone has access to photo editing apps and the ability to airbrush their own photos. Photo editing apps have surpassed simple filters and now offer tools to change facial features, giving even selfies a facelift.

Facetune is an app that offers advanced photo editing tools with options to adjust smiles, skin, eyes, hair color, facial structure, makeup and other photo enhancements. Facetune’s app description says every photo could use a touch up and that the app’s tools can make each photo look like it came out of a high-fashion magazine.

According to the description in the Facetune app, “Now you can be sure that all your portraits show only the best version of you — whether you’ll be using them for your professional profile or simply sharing online with friends.”

Those who admitted to using Facetune, or other similar photo editing apps, did not want to be named.

Jenny Sawyer, a senior from Sacramento, California, studying communication disorders, said she uses Instagram filters to make her pictures look better. Sawyer has not used apps like Facetune to adjust her pictures but says she thinks other people might feel inclined to use those apps so they can get more likes.

“It’s one thing to use filters to enhance pictures, but if you’re changing what the reality is that’s too far,” she said.

Brooke Johnson, a senior from Sandy studying communication disorders, uses a few different photo editing apps for her social media photos and doesn’t feel like it’s bad to do a little editing to your photos. She said social media used to be about sharing events going on in people’s lives with family and friends but now feels like there are some people who use it to impress others.

“What you are sending out on social media should be you; it should be real,” Johnson said.

Students like Greta Lybbert, an open major junior from University Place, Washington, feels like there is an unspoken competition on social media sites, but Lybbert doesn’t let it get to her.

“I don’t feel pressured to make my pictures look a certain way,” she said.

Barbara Morrell has been a psychologist in BYU Counseling and Psychologist Services since 1996 and has had students express to her how they feel pressured to be a perfect version of themselves in social media.

“Social media is an added layer of competition,” Morrell said. “For example, students report to me that they now compare themselves to other people on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram.”

Before (left) and after (right) selfie edited using the facetune app. With new apps like facetune individulas can easily edit their photos before posting them to social media. (Nicole Hale)
Before (left) and after (right) selfie edited using the facetune app. With new apps like facetune individulas can easily edit their photos before posting them to social media. (Nicole Hale)

Morrell said they compare themselves minute to minute with another person’s life. She thinks that is where the pressure comes to use those apps that modify the instant pictures they are taking and sending in hopes of getting more likes and followers.

“People now rank themselves compared to how many people follow them,” Morrell said.

It’s not only women who feel the pressure, but men as well. Morrell said more men come to her with body image issues than one would think. They, too, feel the pressure to look a certain way and generally compare themselves to men with more muscle and athletic builds.

Morrell was listening to the radio one day when she heard them say people are so surrounded by media that they think of celebrities in magazines as being real, instead of paying attention to all of the real bodies around us.

“It struck me as so true; it’s almost like media becomes a part of our reality,” Morrell said.

Morrell thinks LDS women and men have an added pressure because of the combination of American and Mormon culture. She said American culture is about constant comparison and achievement, and this gets mixed with the concept of achieving perfection in the Mormon culture.

“The idea of achieving eternal perfection gets distorted into the belief that I must be perfect, I must look perfect, or I won’t be loved, or successful, or worthy or of worth,” she said.

Morrell feels there are two different paths happening for women. One is that women can achieve anything they want, they’re important in the world and that they don’t have to take a backseat. And secondly, there is a constant pressure to look physically perfect according to the standard the media sets.

Morrell advised students to be aware of how they are affected when they look at social media. If it is taking time away from relationships with friends or loved ones, she recommended making a change and focusing on those relationships more. If it is more of a negative experience than a positive one, she recommended thinking about taking a step back from social media.

“Awareness is important; also building a sense of self that is not based on outward appearances — learning to love the person you are, to love yourself,” she said.

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