“Young people are exposed to a massive pressure to look good through, among other things, advertising and social media, and the models that are shown are often digitally retouched”
Early this month, Norway passed a law that requires online content creators to disclose when they use a filter or retouch a photo they post. The rule will apply to Norwegian influencers, advertisers, and celebrities— that’s anyone with a mass online presence.
The bill comes after the persistence of youth advocacy groups such as the Norway Ministry of Children and Family Affairs. For years, they’ve called for measures to address image editing to lessen adolescents’ body image issues, low self-esteem, and mental health.
In addition, the legal proposal stated that 70,000 young people have mental health problems that need to be treated. That number includes more than half of grade ten Norweigian girls that suffer from body dysmorphia, anorexia, and other eating disorders.
Locally, a study on social media’s impact on Philippine adolescent’s body dissatisfaction shows the same alarming results. The findings included that a high affinity with social media usually equates to poor eating attitudes, body image issues, and low self-esteem. Forty-four percent of the survey participants are below 18 years old.
“Body pressure is pointed out as one of the most important reasons why many young people struggle mentally,” states on the bill. “Young people are exposed to a massive pressure to look good through, among other things, advertising and social media, and the models that are shown are often digitally retouched.”
In summary, the act aims to remove young people’s exposure to “an ideal of beauty that is impossible to achieve.”
Together with the UK and France, Norway is one of the first countries to pass such a law on social media practices. By that, should more countries follow suit? Can it make a positive impact on young people’s mental health issues? And will it pave the way for a universal inclination to “authentic” beauty instead of “perfect” bodies and faces?
Since its release in 2010, Instagram is where the “professionally beautiful” hold office by posting branded content.
These people gain thousands of followers for different reasons: maybe post sartorial content, sometimes they document their fitness regimens, while some routinely post photos from travels. But more often than not, a commonality they share is they’re easy on the eyes.
Instagram models make a living from brand deals that usually mean they get paid for posing with a product and posting it on their feed. Conceptually, it sounds like an enjoyable undertaking. You can take photos of yourself with an iPhone, edit the images, tap the “post” button, then call it a day. However, it becomes problematic at the “edit” stage.
Even without the knowledge of Photoshop, anyone can open Facetune and have an array of “beautifying” options to choose from. The free application can slim down a face with a quick tap, cinch a waist, and narrow a nose. For the people who make a living off of their looks, editing a photo to “enhance” their looks can be part of the job description.
Although, that doesn’t mean we think influencers purposely cause the problem. In fact, according to a report by global influencer marketing platform inzpire.me, nearly half of surveyed influencers admitted that their job negatively affects their mental health.
Rise of authenticity
In effect, inzpire.me co-founder Marie Mostad says that authenticity and realness are becoming integral to successful influencer careers. If authenticity becomes more of a norm, it will benefit the audience and the online personalities themselves.
“As the market leader, Instagram has an even greater responsibility than most to set the standard here,” Mostad tells Forbes. “More can be done, of course, and social media platforms certainly aren’t the only driving factor for negative mental health, but it’s encouraging to see them taking some measures to help tackle the issue.”
In 2019, to create a healthier social media environment, Instagram revealed that its algorithm pushes content that doesn’t appear Photoshopped or heavily edited. As a result, genuine content is deemed preferred by audiences.
Online platforms can uplift its users instead of having them question their worth with an effort from all its moving parts. For instance, Instagram can further improve their guidelines, influencers can release photos without retouching their bodies, and advertisers can make marketing plans that cater to inclusivity.
Norway’s new retouching law is a step in the right direction; however, even without a government bill, these changes can be made. And given the number of young people currently facing body image struggles, we should make these changes now.
Banner photo from @sashalouisepallari on Instagram.