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Selfie surgery: What you see is what you don’t get

There are two kinds of social-(media)-ites in the world: those who use the apps to make themselves look like better photographers, and those who use them to look better themselves. Perhaps a little too proudly, I hadn’t considered myself the latter until preparing the contents of a new Facebook album a few weeks ago. I was back in Leeds sorting through a month’s worth of casual snapshots from my European holiday and felt abnormally compelled, for reasons largely still unknown to me, to put the ones that ‘needed’ fixing in one pile and the ones that didn’t (mostly scenery sans humans) in another. Stranger still, I continued this neurotic behaviour by subtly excising a singular (albeit stubborn) pimple from my face in the photos before uploading them.  

I may not be the only one guilty of cherry-picking what I share online, nor I am alone in feeling reluctant to credit the handiwork of digital dermatologists, but recognising these truths provides minimal comfort. At what point, I’d still like to know, did we resolve that our unedited, uniquely flawed selves aren’t pretty enough for the cyber realm? At what point did we make the switch from sharing real memories to filtered, false realities? In other words, are women today #instaglam, or an #instasham?

It seems at least part of the answer lies somewhere between the birth of the selfie and the death of the dumbphone. Indeed, whether encouraged by the Vogueian ethics of perfectionism marbled across Annie Leibovitz covers or something a little less superficial, everyday females appear to be hungry for ways to exert more control over their images, consciously signing up to – and continuing to grow up in – an airbrushing arms race. Many of us (myself somewhat begrudgingly included) are cosmetic combatants now, just as covert and formidable as the newest technological tools in our arsenal; with most pictures routinely modified, uploaded and tagged without any acknowledgement of this divine digital intervention.  Colours are more vivid and contrasts are sharper – you could call it arty and stimulating, or you could call it cheating.

Though some might also argue that such aggressive photo manipulation is a necessary response to flawless fashion spreads and vanity-tastic celebrity shots, I sympathise with the philosophy of the former: we are merely pretenders. Selfie-enhancers like Perfect365 and Visage Lab may have set a new baseline for photo perfection, but in our individual efforts to fix everything, perhaps it should be said that we’re only revealing what isn’t going right.

Claudie Groves

Image source:

1)  http://lovethatmag.com/must-haves/the-ultimate-selfie-app/

2) http://www.apptactics.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/instagram-app-icon.jpg

3) http://blog.laptopmag.com/wpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/photo-42.png

4) http://riosrealm.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/collage-selfie.jpg



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