Shocking images reveal how teens edit themselves for social media

Selfie Harm: Shocking before-and-after photos show how teenagers edited themselves to have doll-like eyes, narrow noses, and airbrushed skin after being asked to make their images ‘social media ready’

  • British fashion photographer Rankin photographed 15 teenagers aged 13 to 19 and asked them to use the B612 app to edit and filter their images
  • Titled ‘Selfie Harm,’ the side-by-side images show the ease in which today’s youth use retouching tools to change their features 
  • The series is part of the Visual Diet project, a new initiative that explores how images consumption affects people’s mental health
  • All of the teens tweaked their photos until they had large, doll-like eyes, narrow noses, trim jawlines, and perfectly airbrushed skin
  • However, a majority of the subjects said they actually preferred their original portraits

A British fashion photographer has shared a series of shocking before-and-after portraits that were edited by teenagers to highlight the unrealistic beauty standards that have been imposed by social media. 

As part of his latest project, titled ‘Selfie Harm,’ Rankin photographed 15 teenagers aged between 13 and 19, and asked them to use the B612 app to edit and filter their images until they felt they were ‘social media ready.’

The side-by-side images show the ease in which today’s youth use retouching tools to change their features to mimic the flawless images of celebrities and social media influencers they see daily. 


Before and after: British fashion photographer Rankin photographed 15 teenagers aged 13 to 19 and asked them to use the B612 app to edit and filter their images

Trend: All of the teens tweaked their photos until they had large, doll-like eyes, narrow noses, trim jawlines, and perfectly airbrushed skin. Slide right for original photo and left for the edited 

The original portraits are not only a sharp contrast to their digitally enhanced counterparts, but they also demonstrate how the rise of social media has led young people to fall prey to pressures to change their appearances using apps and filters.

Although a majority of the teens said they preferred their original portraits to their edited versions, all of them tweaked their photos until they had large, doll-like eyes, narrow noses, trim jawlines, and perfectly airbrushed skin. 

‘People are mimicking their idols, making their eyes bigger, their nose smaller and their skin brighter, and all for social media likes,’ Rankin wrote on Instagram.

‘It’s just another reason why we are living in a world of FOMO, sadness, increased anxiety, and Snapchat dysmorphia,’ he continued. ‘It’s time to acknowledge the damaging effects that social media has on people’s self-image.’


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Social media dangers: The series is part of the Visual Diet project, a new initiative that explores how images consumption affects people’s mental health

Fascinating: Although the teens fell prey to pressure to change their images, a majority of the subjects said they preferred their original portraits. Slide right for original portrait and left for the edited


Disturbing: ‘People are mimicking their idols, making their eyes bigger, their nose smaller and their skin brighter, and all for social media likes,’ Rankin said 


Alien: Rankin said he found ‘it disturbing how big even the small changes are.’ Slide right for the original and left for the edited

From social media filters to the countless photo editing apps that are available, the ability to change one’s appearance within minutes has become the new norm.   

‘I found it disturbing how big even the small changes are,’ Rankin said. ‘It’s so simple, almost like creating a cartoon character of yourself.’

What the photographer finds most shocking is the fact that hardly anyone is talking about the damaging effects of these apps and filters.  

‘What’s even scarier is there’s little or no debate happening around this,’ he said. ‘Something like Photoshop, which is a much more complex and inaccessible program, is actually part of a huge social ethical discussion.


Hard to believe: The photographer finds it shocking that hardly anyone is talking about the damaging effects of the apps and filters teens are using to change their appearance 


Aiming for perfection: Rankin believes filters and retouching tools are ‘a lot more dangerous’ than Photoshop. Slide right for the original and left for the edited 


Before and after: The side-by-side images show the ease in which today’s youth use retouching tools to change their features


Shunning natural beauty: Many of the teens with freckles opted to airbrush them or completely erase them. Slide right for original and left for the edited

‘These filters are something very new and, in my opinion, a lot more dangerous. It’s almost like giving a teenager access to a Photoshop expert.’

The ‘Selfie Harm’ series is part of the Visual Diet project by M&C Saatchi, Rankin, and the MTArt Agency team, a new initiative that explores how images consumption affects people’s mental health. 

‘In the age of the influencer, we’re increasingly force-fed thousands of images every day,’ the website reads. ‘Hyper-retouched, sexually gratuitous bite-sized images are served up fast and fleeting. 

‘They often leave us feeling hollow and inadequate. These are the empty calories. The visual calories we gorge on because they’re there. Our appetite for this type of content is insatiable. It is visual sugar and we are addicted.

‘Consuming too much of this content seriously harms your mental health.’

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