Editing Instagram Images: A Bit of Fun or Harmful?

Miranda Stoner investigates the world of editing pictures on Instagram, looking at whether this damages self-esteem.

14th May 2018
Image Credit: @effyourbeautystandards (Instagram)

Flicking through a magazine today it is often easy to tell whether an image has been edited or not. Photoshopping and picture editing has long been subject for debate in terms of false advertising and setting unrealistic beauty standards. However, this has been taken to the next level by Instagram, which has made photo editing easy and accessible to anyone with a smartphone. This has opened up new questions about whether we should edit our images or not.

A recent study found that up to 68% of people edit photos of themselves before posting them, yet this is almost equal to the number of people who agree it’s wrong for magazines to edit images. This just shows how normalised editing has become. This is a problem because whilst we have become accustomed to dismissing adverts and magazine features as romanticised versions of reality, when we see images on Instagram, we link them to real life. Instagram is also a platform where we see pictures of friends and events we have attended. In essence: we become the celebrity. The issue with this is that we create an image of our lives and ourselves that isn’t reflective of the truth.

It’s fine if you can look at a picture of your friend posing like an insta influencer in front of the birthday banner, when you know that four hours after that photo was taken she was confessing her undying love to the plate of chips and gravy half spilt down her front. However, influencers themselves, who edit their photos, are sometimes unaware of their reach and they don’t realise that, by showing unattainable perfection, they are damaging the self-esteem of their followers who they have never met in person. The irony is that in some cases, they themselves choose to use filters not out of vanity but out of their own insecurity.


I recently added @effyourbeautystandards to my followed list; they are a breath of fresh air amongst last year’s Love Island contestants and upcoming models. Their realistic images of beauty have made it scarily clear how used to overly staged and edited images we have become. I admire the honesty of an unfiltered Instagram post, as it removes the stress of feeling the need to look perfect all the time.

It’s not hard to see why editing is so popular though. Posting a photo of you not looking your best makes you vulnerable to other people’s judgement. In our society, where we are so conscious of how other people perceive us, it’s natural to want to look as much like the pictures in magazines as possible. We are all guilty of making small tweaks to a photo. But hitching up the brightness or turning up the temperature don’t alter you beyond recognition. These are just like putting on foundation or wearing make-up - they are a conscious choice. What’s more, these touches can be used for a more artistic than egoistic purpose. They are an easy to use and free tool that allow people to create more professional looking images. This is great for creating a virtual photo album of your life that you look happily back on.

The most important factor to consider before editing a photo is why you are doing it. The saddest thing about editing is the final product, because it shows that the person feels they aren’t beautiful enough. We need to realise that often we are at our most beautiful when we look natural and happy.

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