Visual Perceptions

Why We’re Obsessed With Social Media Photos

If you’ve never edited, photo-shopped, or applied a filter to a photo before posting it to social media, then you’re in the minority. Studies all over the world, like one from, have confirmed that more than 50% of women on social media admit to doctoring their photos before posting them to sites. With photography editing and photo-shopping apps available for free today, it’s easier than ever before for anyone to brighten up lighting, and remove any blemishes on their skin.

Optic Distortion

Not everyone perceives visuals the same way as others. From a scientific standpoint, the eye filters light, colors, and shadows uniquely. What you see when you look at an object outside may not appear exactly the same to the person next to you. We take in sights through our respective optic tracts, which bend and distort lighting to process what we view around us. We then deliver that information to the brain, and the brain gets the “final say” in what we actually see every day.

Essentially, your brain has its own “filter” that’s applied to photos before any doctoring even happens. It’s this visual variation that contributes to aggressive photo editing tendencies today.

Media Pressure

It’s inevitable having everyone edit his or her photos today. Why? The media has been distorting reality for decades now. Back in the 1920s, a photo was a still shot of a person, existing in real-time, with a flash. Today, we have difference lenses, time frames, make-up, photo shopping, fans, professional lighting, and the list goes on. What we see as real isn’t really real at all. It’s an illusion.

The fashion and media industries have been concocting this narrative for some time, as we see time and time again celebrities photo shopped to look 20 pounds lighter. Naturally, we’re going to start to do it, too.

Does It Really Matter?

This brings us to the final point of the article: so what if people want to edit their photos? Personally, whatever makes people feel better about themselves with more body confidence at the end of the day is fine with me. If celebrities, heads of state, and media personnel get to project this perfect image at their discretion, then everyday people deserve the same kind of freedom.

“Realness” ended with the advent of social media. Nothing is in real-time (except Live Video), filters are applied, video editing is cut, sounds are muted, fake news is created, and the list goes on. We can’t demand that photos remain “real” while the rest of the content on social media is anything but real.

Stay Vigilant

The best thing people, especially young girls, can do today is educate themselves on photo-editing practices so they are aware when they are viewing a doctored photo. Distorted image reality can contribute to weight dysmorphia and eating disorders; so instead of ignoring this widespread trend, it’s time we embrace it and learn more about identifying edits from a mile away.

It’s perfectly fine to embrace the #NOFILTER trend on social media right now. But if you want to edit your photos, that’s ok, too. Just take everything with a grain of salt.


About Dr. Allegra Alexandra Powell MD

Dr. Allegra Alexandra Powell MD is a Physician and Social Activist with a passion for education, who holds five degrees and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and was recently inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. As an AmeriCorps member and volunteer with several nonprofit organizations, Dr. Powell’s work in the community supports children and the fight against hunger.