Tag Archives: Digital retouching

Facebook Envy: Feeling Bad About our Pretend Digital Lives


Really struggling to lift that styrofoam…

If you scrolled quickly past the above picture in Facebook, you might be convinced that I’m lifting some pretty hefty weights.  You might feel intimidated by yet another picture of a person seemingly able to do all the things. You might feel in some way inferior because you don’t have a picture in your Facebook feed showing you lifting a righteous amount of weights over your head in triumph.

But if you look closer, you might notice that what I’m actually lifting is made of PVC pipe and painted Styrofoam.  It’s a photo prop from a company called Maxx Bench that I ran across at the IDEA conference yesterday.  If you look at the picture below, you can see that I’m actually lifting the “weight” with ease.  (Not surprising as I estimate that the whole thing weighed less than 3 pounds.)


On the one hand this exercise was a lot of fun.  I mean how often do you get to do that?  I felt pretty fierce.  And I’m glad to promote a really cool new product called MAXX Bench that takes the danger and fear out of the bench press.  But it also got me thinking.  How often do we scroll through somebody’s feed and think, “Wow that person’s life is really cool!  I wish my life was that cool.”  And I wondered if my totally pretend picture might inspire that same reaction in somebody else.  I know it happens to me.  I see somebody’s feed and I think that they are so much cooler than me and that I could never possibly reach their level  of awesomeness and bad assery.  In fact this feeling happens often enough to launch scientific studies and create a new phrase “Facebook envy”.  But our digital lives are really a construct.  Even if we aren’t digitally manipulating the pictures or pulling off complete hoaxes (like my bit of “weight lifting” fun above) we are editing.  We are choosing which bits of ourselves to share online.  And although some of us tend to share some deep and not entirely flattering bits about ourselves from time to time, it’s pretty clear that most of us, most of the time, tend to share the cool stuff.

This disconnect is all the greater for the celebrities we admire.  Many of them have handlers and PR specialists and people who airbrush all their photos and painstakingly edit every frame of their appearance in a particular film.  I am not blaming these folks.  Their careers in many cases depend on giving the illusion of being consistently and constantly flawless.  And the game has gotten so sophisticated that one might fear simply going to Starbucks without a team of makeup artists, photographers, digital ret-ouchers, and extra, extra strong turbo Spanx.  We are all caught in a deadly game of visual perfection one-upsmanship.  We make friends and fall in love based on our ability to create a compelling avatar–a perfect profile.

But I think where we really get messed up, is when we begin to believe that this stuff is real–that this is a level to which we should realistically aspire.  Because most of it is giant steaming piles of male cow poo.  We aren’t seeing what these folks look like when they roll out of bed in the morning.  We aren’t seeing blemishes or smelling morning breath or seeing PMS bloat from the celebrities or even from the Facebook feeds of mere mortals.  We’re mostly seeing the carefully selected cool bits.

So maybe the next time you start wondering if your life could possibly be as cool as that person you see on Facebook, you should really be wondering if anybody’s  life could possibly be that cool.  Maybe it’s time to stop comparing yourself to stuff that is carefully edited and not so much really real.


Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to share your real stories as a plus-sized exerciser?  We’ve extended the date for the call for submissions for our new anthology “Throwing our Weight Around–Real Stories of Fat People in the Fitness World”.  You can contribute a scholarly article or a poem or a personal story or whatever!  Click HERE for the CFP. oxoxoxo

Once upon a body…Comparing Ourselves to Pretend People

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie "The Heat".

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie “The Heat”.

In popular culture it can be pretty difficult to find examples of bodies that represent how most people in our world actually appear.  While the average American woman is a US size 12 on the top and a US size 14 on the bottom, the average American actress, pop music icon or model is closer to a size 0 or even a size 00.  Both of these sizes are quite a distance from what most of us see in the mirror every day.  But even these sizes often prove too large for film studios and record labels and fashion magazines.  Even the size zero girls are likely to be “shopped”.

By “shopped” of course I mean digitally retouched in an image editing software package like Adobe Photoshop(R).  And sometimes this digital retouching is done without the will of the original actress, model or performer.

Just today, I’ve run across two amazing examples of Photoshop culture.  Apparently, one of the few plus-sized actresses in Hollywood, Melissa McCarthy was significantly “shopped” in both the American and UK version of the movie posters for her upcoming movie The Heat.  In the American version her image is seriously washed out, and this over exposure seems to make both her signature dimples and her double chin disappear.  The UK version is even more noticeably retouched.  In fact the slimmed down face, redrawn chin and tiny head in relation to the body not only render her as unrecognizable, but also, not necessarily human.  She just looks weird.


In other news, Beyonce was severely Photoshopped into a “model artists rendering” of herself in order to display a Roberto Cavalli dress.  Not only does she not look like herself, but she also doesn’t look quite human with those impossible, stick-thin arms and legs and ludicrously elongated body.  Which seems especially ludicrous when you compare these images with real images showing just how gorgeous she looks in this dress in real life.

beyonce2Even Minnie Mouse is not immune to being “shopped” to sell a dress.

Check HERE for more Photoshop fun (and make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom…)

More and more often, stars are speaking out about the process of being digitally retouched against their will.  They understand the impact that these impossible images are having on  the way women, and especially young girls feel about themselves.

It’s no longer enough to compare ourselves against the very small, and elite number of actors and performers who happen to wear a size 0 or a size 00.  Now we are expected to compare ourselves to artist renderings of impossible people.

Until we say “Basta!” or “That’s enough!”  The only way for us to move beyond the tyranny of these images is to identify them as fictional constructs, and then refuse to buy products from companies that feel the need to display their wares on pretend people.

In other words, it is in our power to decide, “If it ain’t real, it don’t appeal”.

So what do you think?  How do you feel when you see Photoshopped images?  Are there any examples you’ve run across that are particularly misleading and damaging?  Can  you share them with us and let us know how you felt?  Can you share stories about how you presented these images to your friends, your students and your kids?  Or have you noted any amazingly and refreshingly honest images about how real people look?  Please feel free to share those examples with us.

And in the meantime, you can resolve to stop comparing yourself to pretend people once and for all!


The Fat Chick

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