Photoshop is like steroids for Instagram influencers, and advertisers shouldn’t work with models who use it
Meredith Mickelson is basically A-Rod
by Katie Way
There's nothing inherently wrong with a little photo manipulation on your personal account — not my thing, but sure, Facetune yourself to fuck. Whatever.
But advertisers shouldn't sponsor Instagram models who use Photoshop to augment their looks, just like the usage of performance-enhancing drugs costs athletes their sponsorships and ability to compete, because habitual Photoshopping contributes to a culture of damaging and literally unattainable beauty standards.
Instagram isn't going anywhere any time soon — the site has 800 million active monthly users, and one survey found almost 60 percent of people ages 18-29 who use the internet in general use Instagram. Another showed 63 percent of teenagers ages 13-17 use the network on a daily basis — which makes the messaging the platform delivers to users all the more important.
With the rise of digitally manipulated Instagram influencers co-signed by major brands, the beauty standard shifted from a face/body combo that almost nobody can achieve (especially without surgery) to a face/body combo that simply does not exist in the physical realm.
As a person with eyes, I've definitely come across Instagram models with feeds full of photos so preternaturally beautiful that I get physically, viscerally jealous — a low, twisty feeling I get in the pit of my stomach and at the roots of my teeth.
But once I started following accounts like Celeb Face that compare photos posted to a model's account versus the ones taken (and posted) by a photographer, I was surprised by how surprised I was that these women don't naturally have 21-inch waists, razor-sharp jawlines and DDs, like God and every comic book artist intended. How could I have been so naive? Nobody fucking looks like that!
Which isn't to say that Instagram influencers who Photoshop aren't lovely, valuable people or whatever I'm supposed to say here — that's not the point. The point is that on Instagram, beauty isn't enough unless it's sublimity, perfection.
I should have expected a certain amount of Photoshop work done by Instagram models — I'm familiar with the whole "curved wall" effect — but I had no idea how subtle and insidious the tweaks could be. Take, for instance, this Verizon-sponsored post by model Meredith Mickleson.
Not only is Mickelson setting an unrealistic standard for wearing that kind of coat in the snow — it would get really wet, right? — but when you compare the photo she posted to the one the other model in the picture put up on his Instagram story, you start to see that Mickelson made changes no filter could cover.
But Mickelson is far from the only Instagram model to be engaging in the Photoshop game — take the Yeezy-approved Clermont Twins, for instance:
Did LaQuan Smith seriously not notice that the Twins posted a version of themselves walking in his runway show that rendered their waists subtly — but visibly — slimmer?
Again, don't get me wrong — the Clermont Twins are gorgeous, and clearly savvy enough to leverage their gimmick (hot sisters) into a financial asset, but the fact those attributes aren't enough for advertisers is symptomatic of a bigger issue.
Even Instagram influencers who are famous independent of their online presence are guilty of habitual Photoshopping — ask former Disney starlet Dove Cameron, model/heiress Bella Hadid or any Kardashian besides Rob. Y'all have access to the best of the best in terms of makeup, clothing, skincare and healthcare and you're still not satisfied?
It would almost be comforting, if it wasn't so fucking depressing — and deceptive. It's baseline fucked up to peddle a product that's supposed to make you look a certain way if the image you're using to sell it isn't even what you actually look like.
And in this case, medium matters. We already know that magazines edit the shit out of their cover stars, because someone somewhere fucks it up on a bi-monthly basis. But the pictures we see on Instagram are supposed to be real, phone-to-feed content — even though they're often the furthest thing from it.
Studies have linked Instagram to a whole slew of issues surrounding self-esteem. One even cited Instagram as the platform with the most negative impact on the mental health of teenagers and young adults, compared to YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook.
Plot twist: it scored highest in terms of increasing anxiety and negatively impacting body image. This shit matters, and Instagram models shouldn't be financially rewarded for making Instagram a shittier place.
Instagram models and their editing teams either need to get creative or get over it. In my eyes, plastic surgery and insane angles are all fair game — at least those are physically possible to replicate! Otherwise, we should just accept that we're all lumpy and flawed, and demand to see that reality reflected everywhere — even our #sponcon.
Companies that advertise through Instagram influencers need to hold themselves accountable for promoting realistic beauty standards, because there's no fucking way they don't know this is happening.
It would be incredibly easy to find someone to compare pictures for for money, because so many internet sleuths are out here doing it for free.
And if companies don't start wising up and getting real? More and more people will begin to notice the blatant over-usage of photo editing and turn away from a platform that makes them feel like shit to sell swimsuits.
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