Getting the right look | Research highlights SA girls’ issue with self-esteem

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Girls in South Africa take an average number of 13 selfies before they are happy posting on social media.
Girls in South Africa take an average number of 13 selfies before they are happy posting on social media.

Have you ever noticed how almost everyone looks flawless on social media these days because of all the photo filter and retouching apps?

Research commissioned by the Dove self-esteem project reveals alarming results — more than 80% of girls in South Africa change or hide at least one body part or feature before posting a photo of themselves, compared to 77% globally.

A girl editing her picture on an editing app.
A girl editing her picture on an editing app.
A girl editing her picture on an editing app.
A girl editing her picture on an editing app.

Dove recently launched the Reverse Selfie film, which represents how far retouching apps can distort reality and how young girls are digitally self-distorting their appearance for social media.

Rooted in new research commissioned by the Dove self-esteem project, the film undoes the emotional and physical stages of posting a selfie; highlighting how editing tools — once only available to the professionals — can now be accessed by young people at the touch of a button without regulation. And, rather than models on set, it’s girls in their bedrooms filtering away their identities.

“If the research that has been done is anything to go by, then we as individuals throughout this country need to unite to empower young people to be their most authentic selves.”
Sphelele Mjadu, Unilever Beauty & Personal Care senior public relations manager for Africa

The research highlights some major issues that girls face around the world.

Sphelele Mjadu, Unilever Beauty & Personal Care senior public relations manager for Africa, said they are trying to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.

“We would like to raise awareness about the importance of having conversations with the young people in your life about self-esteem and digital distortion in social media.

“If the research that has been done is anything to go by, then we as individuals throughout this country need to unite to empower young people to be their most authentic selves,” said Mjadu.

The research also found that on average, every day, South African girls spend almost two-and-a-half hours on social media in SA. Girls in the country take an average number of 13 selfies before they are happy posting on social media.

Focus
According to the research, 81% of girls wish the world would focus more on who they are instead of what they look like.

Some 61% of girls spend more than 10 minutes getting ready for a photo that they want to post on social media.

Girls with lower body esteem are more likely to use an app or filter to change an aspect of their body than girls with higher body esteem. Girls with lower body esteem distort their photos more before posting on social media than girls with high body esteem.

Importantly, the research revealed that SA girls said that if images on social media were more representative of the way girls look in everyday life, they would feel more confident.

According to the research, 81% of girls wish the world would focus more on who they are instead of what they look like; 78% of girls wish social media would be more representative of different types of beauty; while 60% of girls feel that influencers or celebrities should have to tell followers when their photos have been edited on social media.

A sign of insecurities

Social media filters and editing apps have dramatically changed the way girls can be creative with their photography; allowing them to experiment with self-expression.

But when they distort the way girls really look in an attempt to meet unrealistic standards that cannot be achieved in real life, they can have a lasting and harmful impact on girls’ self-esteem.

Psychologist Kevin Fourie told Weekend Witness that as harmless as it may seem, editing your pictures could be indicative of insecurities and low self-esteem.

“I would equate it to people who get plastic surgery in the hopes that, ‘having my nose reshaped will make me feel better about myself’. But unfortunately, yourself comes with you even after the operation. It might result in a slight improvement, but not much,” said Fourie.

He said because of all the media that is available these days, it creates a platform where people start comparing themselves to what they think they should look like, hence people start using the filters in that way.

“I think it depends to what degree it’s done. If you use makeup because you like the idea of looking pretty, that’s fine.

“And I suppose that if you use filters the same way that one would use makeup, I don’t think that’s problematic. The issue is when it starts getting obsessional.

“It’s when you have a base-line of a poor self-image and you’re trying to pretend that you’re something that you’re not, then it’s indicative of the fact that you’re feeling insecure, and this is the means of trying to manage your insecurity.

“The problem is that you can put up these beautiful pictures of yourself on Facebook that you’ve photoshopped looking like a supermodel, but when you go to school tomorrow people see that you actually don’t look like that,” he said.




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