It appears that in recent years there is no limit to what technology is capable of. In particular, technology has exponentially progressed the methods used in advertisements to sway consumers. Photoshop has made it possible to make any product in an advertisement desirable and impeccable. But in some cases, Photoshop has not been used to make the product desirable, but instead the model within the advertisement. The results of this method have greatly increased sales in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, there have also been some controversial consequences of Photoshop.
As a teenager I felt pressured to be thin and beautiful because I felt it was the only way to be successful and happy in this country. Is it just me, or is it harming the already fragile self-esteem of youth today? Or is it simply a form of artistic expression? Either way, I propose that the FCC ban Photoshop since it is harmful to youth, despite that it is also a new genre of photography, because of my own personal experiences with its negative affects. Photoshop can affect anyone of all ages, but it especially affects young women including myself and others I know.
Firstly, there are many influences surrounding a young woman in today’s society that could influence her self – esteem negatively. However, Photoshop is behind more of these influences than may be immediately noticeable. These influences may not seem harmful at first, but when examined more closely they all depict women in a specific way. Women in advertisements are Photoshopped to be beautiful, at standards few to no real life woman could ever achieve.
When young women see this, they hold themselves to those standards and become insecure when they are unable to reach it. One example proving this was a survey asking young women about their attitudes and feelings towards fashion advertisements given by Daniel Clay a published author, Vivian Vignoles, a senior lecturer in Social Psychology, and Helga Dittmar, a researcher in the field of health and psychology. They concluded that “Airbrushing, digital alteration, and cosmetic surgery further increase the unrealistic nature of media images of women as standards for self-evaluation,” (Clay,Vignoles, and Dittmar 452). Young girls will strive to appear airbrushed with make-up, they may starve themselves to be thin, or get plastic surgery to alter themselves. If Photoshop were not in ads, women’s insecurities would not force women to reach these last resorts.
Even worse, if a young girl somehow does not pay attention to any of these influences specifically, she may still be affected by people who do pay attention to them. Researchers Yoonhyeung Choi and Jounghwa Choi at the university of Michigan and their co-researcher Glen Leshner, who works for Korcom Novelli Inc., suggest that even if women understand the unreachable beauty Photoshop can depict, they fear that men viewing fashion models in advertisements really can be that beautiful, and therefore they will raise their standard of women to the levels they see in ads (Y.Choi, J. Choi and Leshner 14). If women can receive insecurities second-hand from others around them it means there is little to nothing they can do to shelter themselves from the negative images around them.
On the contrary, it would be difficult for Photoshop to be banned from advertisements considering Photoshop is used world wide as an advertising method.. It is used for nothing more than selling a product, and in fact it is a highly efficient method. Instead of banning Photoshop, opponents would argue that women and anyone potentially harmed by the inadvertent effects of Photoshop should be taught from people surrounding them to critically analyze advertisements. A journalist for The NewYorker, Amanda Fortini, whom has written multiple articles over the years covering social media, expresses this same idea. She believes that parents and teachers need to teach “young women (and men) to cultivate the same critical skills we urge them to exercise when reading, a more complex task than pointing gleeful fingers at graphic misdemeanors. The problem isn’t altered photographs; it’s our failure to alter our expectations of them,” (Fortini par. 10) Once people are able to distinguish between what is realistic and unrealistic standards, people will no longer be disappointed when they do not reach impossible levels of beauty.
In addition, the way that Photoshop should be analyzed, suggested by it’s supporters, is to look at it as a form of art. Photography, and other forms of art inspire audiences and encourage them positively. Rachel Tibbs, an editorial assistant at Fit Publishing, argues that “In many cases [Photoshop] can be used in positive ways, to create works of art that are harmful to no one and helpful to many. Photo editing creates jobs, encourages artistry, and can be used to promote and generate interest in anything from history to science,”(Tibbs 6). When it is viewed as art, and is analyzed with the same criteria of art, Photoshop will be viewed as a genre of photography rather than a deceiving advertisement. It will then no longer have negative effects on anyone’s self-esteem.
Finally, while I consider myself an artist, I am more greatly impacted by Photoshop negatively than positively. Researching both arguments had me second guessing which stance I wanted to choose though, because I believe that Photoshop could be viewed artistically in a different society or a different time period where being thin was not valued more than being healthy.
In high school, I struggled like all young girls to understand myself and become comfortable with my body. I was overweight. In my head, being overweight meant that I was worth less in comparison to girls that weren’t. I was automatically going to be less attractive, less desirable, and less important because of my weight. Without Photoshop, I probably still would have been insecure about the size of my body. Regardless, I believe the feeling of being worthless and more of a nuisance than a person was caused by the idealization of being thin in fashion ads. It’s one thing to not care for the size of my body, and another to feel as though I don’t deserve to follow my dreams and to find a loving husband because of it.
On top of this, I see these same problems in my sister-in-law. She is fifteen years old, and she has recently lost 20 pounds in three months. Not only is it unhealthy to lose weight that fast, but she was only 115 pounds to being with. She is underweight, fragile, and constantly sick, but she insists she only needs to lose a few more pounds. It is because of her more than myself, that my artistic side has not gotten the best of me. When I express my worries to her, she scares me even further by defending herself and telling me that all her friends are doing it too.
Ultimately Photoshop is pushing its limits to the point that I can’t defend its artistic value. Too many girls will starve themselves because they feel fat and are sick of being viewed as a second class citizen for it. Many other girls will get a breast augmentation, or another form of plastic surgery because they fear they will never be loved by anyone. These problems caused by Photoshop are too drastic to be ignored and too unethical to be allowed.
Photoshop is not exposing us to art, it is teaching society to measure the worth of a human being based on their appearance. One day, I hope it will be considered art, but for now all Photoshop does is play on women’s insecurities enough so that they will buy a product. And selling a product is not as important as it is to raise healthy young women with self-confidence, respect from others around them, and more importantly with respect for themselves.
Choi, Jounghwa, Yoonhyeung Choi, and Glen Leshner.” Third-Person Effects of Idealized Body Image in Magazine Advertisements.” Sexuality Media/Advertisement. Sage publications, 12 Aug. 2009. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.
Clay, Daniel, Vivian Vignoles, and Helga Dittmar. “Body Image and Self‐Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors.” Journal of research on Adolescence. Wiley Online Library,30 Nov. 2005. Web. 23 Sept. 2013.
Fortini, Amanda. “In Defense of Photoshop: Why Retouching Isn’t As Evil As Everyone Thinks.” The Cut. New York Media, 29 Aug. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Tibbs, Rachel. “The Positive and Negative Uses of Photo Editing.” Multimedia Essay. N.p., 7 Apr. 2011. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.