September 13, 2020

Photoshop, Social Media & Body Shaming: Alternative Reality doesn’t only Exist in Politics.

While everyone is focusing on fake news there is another alternative reality creating suffering that most of us are not aware of. 

I am talking about the relationship between Photoshop and social media, and its impact on our self-confidence.  

We have all seen the pictures of physically attractive people in breathtaking environments on social media. Especially the wellness industry catches our attention with offerings around beauty, fitness, and lifestyle coaching.

Most of these images that are presented online make us feel bad about ourselves. We know what we look like in the morning before having our first coffee of the day. How are these models always in such a good shape and mood? 

After years of using social media, we figured out that most friends share only their best moments with us. This creates a false reality of everyone being happier and more successful than we are. Most of us learned that comparing our life with what we see on our feeds does not make any sense. 

When it comes to the looks of our friends and idols, many of us still have a huge blind spot. 

I was living in Costa Rica for the past four years. During that time, I met many yoga teachers, fitness models, and other influencers with 1000s of followers on social media. Seeing these people in real life and looking at their online appearances gave me some insight into the alternative reality that is causing almost as much damage as fake news.

Many wellness influencers use women empowerment as a vehicle to sell their products. Diets, essential oils, and workshops designed to awaken our inner goddess are the best sellers within that community. 

Usually presented by skinny women sharing the secrets on how to be like them. These models make it look easy and fun to eat healthy, to workout, and meditate all day long. Often, these offerings use before/after comparisons to prove the value of the content. 

We are supposed to believe that we could be like them by following their advice. As these marketers make it look so easy to fulfill today’s beauty standards, we start feeling bad about ourselves. 

Why can’t we get our sh*t together? 

The reason for that might be quite sobering to many of us. It is because many of these impressive before/after stories are fake. It is really easy these days to manipulate pictures into a different reality. With a few clicks, an average looking body can be transformed into a perfect 10. 

To illustrate this, my girlfriend applied a few photoshop tricks on an average picture taken of me at the beach. Take a closer look at the title picture of this article and see for yourself. Every day we see altered pictures of regular people trying to impress or sell something to us. 

There are many true stories of hardworking coaches and yoga teachers helping clients to lose weight or find peace of mind, but there is also a dark side to this. 

Believe it or not, influencers are just normal human beings like you and me. There is nothing wrong with them, but most of them don’t look anything like the pictures of them on social media. 

They are beautiful women who know a thing or two about fitness and wellness, there is no doubt about that. I am sure they have helped many women with their offerings, but I think they could do even better than that. Why not be honest about the results? 

Doing 30 minutes of yoga every morning has the potential to make us feel much better throughout the day, but it won’t make us lose 30 pounds in a month. Eating healthier and using certain supplements can help our immune system and metabolism, but it doesn’t change our looks in four weeks. 

The idea of investing almost no time into fitness hacks and expecting results within a few days is just not realistic. 

At the end of the day, most of us want to improve our well-being, but do we really need to look like a 20-year-old model? 

Losing a little weight and getting more defined is all we can ask for after a few weeks of working out, but if the fitness model loses 30 pounds and we only lose five pounds with the same strategy, we start feeling bad about ourselves. 

We start questioning ourselves when comparing our progress with the stunning results of our coaches. What if they actually use Photoshop to create this false image we are impressed by? 

Setting unrealistic standards by photoshopping pictures for marketing purposes causes the opposite of what these influencers intend to do. Empowering people by showing them how to improve their well-being is one thing, but selling unrealistic expectations to clients is another. 

Wouldn’t it be more empowering to share imperfection with the audience and encourage people to not give up in the early stages of transformation? 

Wouldn’t it be more supportive to make it more about feeling better than looking better? 

Wouldn’t it be more feminist to accept our bodies as they are than photoshopping them? 

If I go surfing every day for two months and then tell you that I got that fit by doing 20 push-ups a day, wouldn’t that be super mean? It would be even worse if I would photoshop my abs to make me look ripped to impress you, after hanging out on the beach and sipping margaritas for two months. 

Nobody is perfect and that is perfectly fine. 

The wellness industry is exaggerating its results, just as coaches telling us that we will become millionaires “with that one simple trick.” We like to buy into the idea of one life hack changing everything with almost no effort. Modern technology enables everyone to create these fake narratives of breakthrough stories. 

Making thousands of dollars from home, or looking like a 20-year-old model by working out for 20 minutes a day is just marketing, not reality. Images of young entrepreneurs on yachts and wellness influencers looking like models are created to trigger our desire to be like these people. 

It makes us feel incomplete as we compare it to our reality. There is no need for that.

This is not a reason to stop working on ourselves, but it could be an invitation to not be so hard on ourselves. Once we acknowledge that most pictures on social media are presenting an exaggerated reality and waistlines that don’t exist in the real world, a lot of peer pressure is taken off our shoulders. 

News is not the only content that is subject to manipulation. Images on social media are setting beauty standards nobody can keep up with because they are not real.

The diets, workouts, and coaching programs aren’t fraud, but the pictures of influencers are not a representation of their daily lives. Nobody wakes up with makeup and perfect hair. It is an alternative reality designed to sell a product. 

As long as we take these offerings with a grain of salt, they can help us to improve our lives, but we should never give up because our results vary from what we saw on social media.



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