It is graduation season, a time of year where those who have been awarded a degree can celebrate their hard work in a ceremony, complete with traditional gowns and mortarboards. To commemorate such a momentous occasion, many graduates have professional photographs taken.
Nowadays you can change the background of your photographs and even the style of your picture (Instagram-style montages are popular). But it appears that now, things have gone a step too far.
A Surrey-based company now offers services such as ‘digital slimming’ and ‘teeth whitening’ as well as the other more traditional services. Prompting the idea that we are not good enough as we are, offering these services has caused controversy for the company.
Defending themselves via Twitter, the company states that the digital slimming they offer refers to the appearance of the gown only. What cannot be ignored however is the fact that 18-25 year olds are particularly vulnerable to body image anxiety and mental illness.
Recent statistics have shown that 90% of British women feel a sense of body image anxiety and one in four adults say they are depressed about their bodies.
Airbrushed images of models and celebrities in magazines have been criticised for the negative impact they can have on young people and the debate continues to rage on. The noticeable shift in recent years however is seeing us use the same technology on pictures of ourselves. Photography apps let us add flattering filters to show us in our best light and the selfie-craze has been linked to increased pressure surrounding body image.
Earlier this year there was outrage among mental health charities when smartphone apps like ‘SkinneePix’ help you to look up to 15lbs lighter in your ‘selfies’.
Dr Molefi Dinga Mathe, Speciality Doctor in Psychiatry says,
“The media’s covert and at times blatantly overt sensationalisation of the ‘perfect’ body, supported by various artistic persuasions, continues to hinder the ability of our young people to develop a balanced sense of self. The adverse effects of this quest for perfection underpin the development of overvalued ideas and at times delusional beliefs, particularly with regards body image, in the minds of our youth.”
Photographs are meant to capture moments and evoke emotion, but as self-correcting becomes the norm – they are quickly becoming tools to chip away at our self-esteem.