Disclaimers For Digital Altering do Nothing For Our Wellbeing

The Royal Society for Public Health has suggested that disclaimer labels should be included alongside digitally altered images. A recent study by Livingston, Holland and Fardouly investigated whether disclaimers about photo editing could provide some relief for our Instagram wellbeing. ⁣

They showed participants Instagram photos of a thin, attractive woman that had been edited. Some photos were displayed on their own, and others with captions, such as ”this photo does not reflect reality!… I posed awkwardly to make my waist LOOK smaller, then I used a photo editing app digitally slim my legs, waist, shoulders and arms #artificialbeauty #confessions”. ⁣

Simply viewing the photos negatively effected the participants’ body satisfaction and mood. That’s right – literally just looking at these idealised images made them feel worse. Our newsfeeds do this to us every day. ⁣

Unsurprisingly, the disclaimer captions did not mitigate this negative impact at all. ⁣

Disclaimers would be useful if we were completely oblivious of Photoshop, Lightroom and Facetune to begin with. But we’re not – the majority of the time we know what we see is manipulated, but we still compare ourselves to it and ultimately come out worse off. ⁣

The researchers suggest that disclaimers of digital altering actually draw more attention to the body parts in question, and may cause MORE body dissatisfaction. We may never have considered air-brushing our shoulders until an influencer told us it was necessary.⁣

If content creators want to be honest about their retouching, they need to think about WHY they are retouching in the first place. If someone who is perceived to be thin and attractive needs to be edited to meet the media ideal, what message does that send us? Pretending to challenge stereotypes whilst editing to benefit from those stereotypes is just not going to cut it. ⁣

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