Photoshopped images have become widespread in advertising. Due to the widespread availability of image editing software and apps, people have become accustomed to photoshopping their own images before sharing them on social media platforms. While most people are aware that the images they view have been enhanced through technology, the question arises whether photoshopped images are influencing our concept of normal physical appearance, and whether this trend is ethical.
Photoshopping began to be used in advertising with the rise of digital photography. This allowed photo editors to use image editing software to smooth uneven skin surface and complexion and create an almost perfect looking face. As far as the norms of advertising are concerned, this seemed a reasonable use of modern technology. But consumers of such images might have taken these professional images too seriously for their own good. Over the years, a preoccupation, perhaps obsession, with physical perfection has become widespread, especially among young people. The use of surgical and medical procedures like Botox, fad diets, cosmetic surgery and steroids has seen people become more concerned with how they appear on camera and how closely they resemble images seen in professional photography.
Although people are free to use editing tools to improve the quality of their photographs, it is also important to consider the impact of these all-too-perfect images on how we perceive our appearance. A slight scar or blemish on the skin is unbearable and a simple hairdo is not worthy of a selfie at all. What are the consequences of these emerging norms on the self-esteem of young people? How are they going to evaluate themselves and their peers? The exposure to images of near-perfect bodies and faces is more likely to create negative self-images among young people as they are likely to feel inadequate and deficient in their appearance.
There is a need to encourage a sense of reality in young people about the limits of relying on external appearance as a marker of worth. Being physically attractive and following beauty trends are common habits among young people the world over, but it is equally important to help young people realize that one’s natural features don’t need to be extraordinarily glamorous to be acceptable. They need to learn that a person’s strengths also include intelligence, compassion, responsibility and leadership in addition to physical beauty. This awareness can help us build a generation of confident, capable and sensible young people.