A proposed law in the UK could mean celebrities and influencers are banned from secretly photoshopping their pictures on social media to alter their face or body shape.
Dr. Evans, a member of the Health and Social Care Committee and a General Practitioner, stated that edited photos on social media were “fuelling a mental health crisis” as they are creating a “warped view” of beauty.
It’s no secret that models are often photoshopped to make their bodies look thinner or curvier in certain places, to lengthen their legs to mannequin-like proportions, to smooth or tan their skin, or to enhance the general appearance.
The idea of photoshopping humans and objects is not an uncommon concept in most countries. We often see models in magazines and on billboards who look impossibly perfect or food in commercials that looks too good to be real. Often, these digitally-enhanced photos are made to attract a following and sell a product.
Furthermore, Jean Kilbourne, author of Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Power of Advertising, has said, “Ads sell more than products. They sell values, they sell images, they sell concepts of love and sexuality, of success, and perhaps most important, of normalcy.”
Evans’ proposed bill may be a hindrance for celebrities and social media influencers who use photo-editing apps to enhance their faces and bodies to sell products or to simply make them seem more attractive.
Khloe Kardashian recently came under fire for an Instagram photo after it was compared side-by-side with a screenshot from a video interview of the same day. The photo seemed to be heavily altered and many people noted how different she looked, commenting how she looked “like a completely different person.”
The idea of labeling photoshopped images as “edited” is actually not a new concept. In 2017, France introduced the same bill. And before that, Israel also implemented a similar law.
According to the French bill, advertisers would be fined for editing models’ bodies without indicating that the image had been digitally altered.
The bill had been introduced in an effort to tackle persistent image-doctoring. The French government believed that the editing of models’ faces and bodies were to be viewed as a public health issue since these photoshopped images promoted extreme thinness and impossibly skinny body shapes. The culture of photoshopping bodies would often lead to body image issues and mental health problems for vulnerable viewers such as young women who frequently compare themselves to the people they see in Instagram posts and magazines.
A survey by the Royal Society for Public Health found that social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all led to increased feelings of depression, anxiety, poor body image, and loneliness for young people in the UK.
“Exposing young people to normative and unrealistic images of bodies leads to a sense of self-depreciation and poor self-esteem that can impact health-related behaviour,” Health Minister Marisol Touraine said.
However, this doesn’t mean that social media is ultimately causing many mental health issues like depression. Many studies show a correlation rather than causation. Still, it’s worth noting how social media could be affecting teenagers and young adults negatively.
So would a law that forces celebrities, influencers, and advertisers to label photoshopped pictures as “edited” really work?
Tom Quinn from UK eating disorder charity Beat thinks so. He expressed, “It’s simplistic to suggest that looking at photoshopped images will cause eating disorders. We support any measures that contribute to a society having a healthier view of body types and everyone being more aware of which pictures have been touched up.”
However, when proposing such social media enforcements, many questions come up: How would photoshopped images be tracked? With hundreds of thousands of celebrities and influencers online, how would digitally-enhanced images be found among the millions of posts? All commercials, advertisements, and celebrity images have been manipulated in some way or another. Finding all images that exceed the limit of photoshopping would be hard to track and report.
Furthermore, what constitutes the difference between simply edited and heavily photoshopped? What about those who aren’t famous yet alter their faces and bodies? The morality of government interference in social media should be discussed as well. Should governments be allowed to meddle with the commercial and advertising industry? Would such enforcements be considered censorship?
An anonymous writer remarked, “While I’m against heavy photoshopping, I’m not comfortable with a group of men in suits telling us what we can and can’t do.”
At the end of the day, the culture surrounding social media can be both toxic and beneficial. While social media may be related to the rise of mental illnesses among the younger generation, its advantages shouldn’t be ignored either.
Nowhere else can people be able to view hundreds of images and videos daily. Online pages have become spaces of safety and positivity. News can be spread with the click of a button and ideas and beliefs can be thoroughly debated in discussion boards.
Not only that, but social media has also become a massive tool for education of topics ranging from everyday hacks to social justice issues.
So while social media definitely has its ugly sides, the beauty of an online world where information and content can be broadcasted to people on the other side of the globe is worth recognizing as well.