Selfie Harm looks into the psychological impact that being ‘social media ready’ can have.
Selfie culture has fast become part of our daily life, and now that social media is so prevalent in every aspect of what we do, taking them has become the norm. Just had your hair done? Snap a selfie. Skin looks good in the sunlight? Take a selfie. Make-up looking better than usual? It’s time to take a selfie. You probably don’t even bat an eyelid when you see somebody posing at their front-facing camera during rush hour.
But the way we view ourselves and the editing that goes into some photos before they’re allowed to see the light of Instagram is a whole other world. FaceTuning images in order to blur a spot, to whiten teeth or brighten eyes has also – sadly – become normal.
The pressure we put on ourselves to present a perfect image of who we are is phenomenal, but it’s not healthy. Having flaws has become frowned upon and people no longer want to embrace their freckles or smile at their laughter lines, instead choosing to erase all sight of them. And it’s dangerous.
But that’s something that Rankin is keen to help counteract. He wants to make people aware of just how damaging the effects of social media can be, which is why he’s created a new photo series, aptly named Selfie Harm.
The images were first shown at an exhibition/panel discussion called Visual Diet, a new initiative launched by M&C Saatchi, Rankin and MTArt Agency exploring the impact of imagery on our mental health. The series, in which the renowned photographer took portrait shots of 15 teenagers and then handed power over by asking each of them to edit and filter the unretouched image until they themselves believed it was ‘social media ready’, was then launched on 30 January on Instagram,
“Social media has made everyone into their own brand. People are creating a two-dimensional version of themselves at the perfect angle, with the most flattering light, and with any apparent flaws removed,” says Rankin. “This is a new, enhanced reality, a world in which teenagers can alter themselves digitally within seconds. Mix this with the celebrities and influencers flaunting impossible shapes with impossible faces and we’ve got a recipe for disaster.”
“People are mimicking their idols, making their eyes bigger, their nose smaller and their skin brighter, and all for the social media likes,” wrote Rankin on Instagram. “It’s just another reason why we are living in a world of FOMO, sadness, increased anxiety and Snapchat dysmorphia. It’s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image.”
In the pictures (above and below), you can see the visible differences and changes made compared to the original. Whether it’s smoother complexions, slimmer jaw lines, wider eyes, bigger lips or more make-up, each image is noticeably different – and while Rankin notes that the majority of subjects preferred their original image – it’s heart-breaking to see.
The original images show youth and natural beauty which strongly contrasts the newly filtered, edited versions, which really proves just how easy it is to blur the lines between what’s real and what isn’t.
The power of social media is incredible, but it’s also responsible for the way in which young women and men see themselves, and in turn it can convince them that they’re not good enough as they are. But, nobody is perfect. None of the images these teenagers are comparing themselves to are real and that’s what makes it a thousand times worse.
Snapchat filters and face-smoothing tools aren’t real life, but the more people that use them, the harder it is to distinguish between what’s natural and what really, really isn’t.
But hopefully, with these sorts of powerful images, we’ll be able to make people realise they’re beautiful exactly as they are.
Bravo Rankin, we applaud you.
Images: courtesy of Rankin