The world of Photoshop is all fun and games and eye rolls until you find your 13-year-old sister retouching a snapshot of her adorable face because she's too nervous to post that selfie to Facebook without a little artificial enhancement. Then it's personal.
A new study by the Renfrew Center, which specializes in eating disorders, surveyed 1,700 U.S. adults with social media accounts and found that half of them retouched selfies before posting them to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like.
And no, Instagram filters don't count. We're talking about actual retouching here, with Photoshop or Photoshop-like tools. The smooth glow that Instagram's "Toast" filter gives your complexion is just an added bonus.
Why retouch? 49 percent of retouchers said it was to enhance their look, 12 percent said it was because they weren't happy with the way they look, and 6 percent blatantly said they retouch to make themselves look thinner.
Selfies, the 2013 word of the year, have become something of a "psychological research goldmine," as Wired put it, and at least part of the psychology here is pretty clear: selfie-takers are feeling hugely inadequate. To an outsider, there may be nothing less important than the self portrait of a teenage girl as posted to Twitter. But to that teenage girl, the selfie is everything that matters in that moment — and she's got the retouching apps to make it count.
As a method of combating this pervasive selfie-insecurity, Renfrew Center is attempting to recapture social media in its pure, untouched state with their annual "Barefaced & Beautiful, Without & Within” campaign. It begins on Monday, February 24, in conjunction with National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (Feb. 23-March 1). To participate, Renfrew Center wants selfie-takers to post makeup-free, un-Photoshopped selfies online, with the hashtag #Barefacedbeauty.
While the idea of a barefaced selfie takeover is sweet, the sad truth of the matter is that it's still all about creating an image. The addicting magic of the selfie is that, eyeliner or no eyeliner, you can still find the best lighting and tilt your head just so to present an ideal version of yourself to the camera. A better idea is to drop the makeup and the smartphone altogether, at least for a day. Your reality is far more than a portrait you take of yourself.