From Instagram to Airbrush, we’ve all seen and experienced our fair share of photo editing apps. Each one provides us with a new feature that not only renders the photo, but more specifically the person in it. As time goes on, consumers, especially from a younger age range, continue to let social media rule their lives, and their self-esteem. A like, share, or comment is registered as positive reinforcement that a picture or post is considered popular among the user’s followers. With that in mind, younger audiences go to some pretty extreme lengths to get that kind of praise, with the help of some digital surgeons.
A lot of people, including myself, are guilty of using Instagram’s photo editing capabilities before posting for public opinion. We have all caught ourselves tempted to use different filters and editing features to make a picture more appealing, in the hopes that our followers will find it worthy enough of a like or comment. Women in particular struggle to make their appearance acceptable in a world with such high expectations. They want to look tanner, brighter, thinner, and blemish free, to give a sense of unrealistic standards of “I woke up like this” perfection. It’s why younger consumers begin to panic if, after all of this effort, their post still doesn’t live up to the expected quota. They worry: Did I post too soon or at a bad time? Was it the filter I used? Do I have the right look? So on and so forth these questions begin to spiral downhill, leaving the consumer with doubts as to whether or not they are social media worthy, which inherently lowers their self-esteem. In this vicious circle, it’s important to remember that authenticity matters.
Many apps have been scrutinized for the extreme photo editing options they provide, making it easy for people to completely alter their body type, skin tone, and structure, to the point where the original picture looks nothing like the edited version. Apps have taken it past the building blocks of Instagram, to new apps such as Airbrush, VSCO, Photoshop, Piclab, and many others that have taken photo editing to a whole new level. Does this do more harm than good? Take note advertisers, because you can learn a lot about your younger audience’s interest based off of their photo edits.
Advertising was practically built on companies using celebrities and models to endorse their products and attract their viewers. It’s popular because it works: it piques viewer’s interest. However, there’s a fine line between not enough and too much. When photoshopping is overdone, it makes ads appear artificial and may even make viewers feel insecure or uncomfortable. Seeing their idols and the stars they admire altered for societal acceptance doesn’t exactly send a great message. Advertisers should choose individuals that inspire their younger consumers, highlighting their natural talents and beauty and encouraging their easily influenced audience to do the same.
Today in the modeling industry, both in digital and print advertisements, many individuals have put their foot down against airbrushing and Photoshopping their bodies, requesting to focus on their natural appearance to stay true to their fans. One individual in particular, Australian teenage Instagram star Essena O’Neill, broke the silence on the pressures of social media and digital advertising. O’Neill had half a million followers on Instagram and was highly sought after by the most popular and coveted brands. As her fame grew, she became uncomfortable with the pressure and took all of her photos off social media. She began to post viral videos in which she gives her viewers a real-life look into the lives of these internet-famous teenagers and their ‘perfect lives’. Essena says that, through all of the fame and hype, she was miserable because she “let numbers define her.” She became so consumed with her social media accounts and reactions from her followers that it slowly became an obsession. She has now re-uploaded her Instagram account, and maintained 136,000+ followers and growing, posting only pictures that depict an average teen’s life. Her authenticity and transparency has inspired her viewers, making her more popular than ever.
This is a helpful reality check to advertisers: digital surgery is not the way to attract younger viewers. Younger audiences need companies and campaigns that place highlight acceptance and healthy lifestyles, using these popular and genuine stars as inspiration. Younger viewers will feel much more comfortable and gain a lot more respect for the advertising industry if they give it to their viewers straight, instead of just being another number that defines society. Consider this opposite approach when targeting ads on apps like Instagram.
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