Opinion Columnists

Tuesday 22 January 2019

'Touched-up pics can damage mental health' says Thalia

HOW SHE LOOKS: Thalia Heffernan and her boyfriend Ryan McShane. Photo: David Conachy
HOW SHE LOOKS: Thalia Heffernan and her boyfriend Ryan McShane. Photo: David Conachy
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Ireland's top model Thalia Heffernan has voiced concerns that models and bloggers who use phone apps to falsely accentuate eyes, whiten teeth, remove blemishes - and even change the shape their face - are damaging their own and others' self-esteem.

Ms Heffernan has said it is a "breath of fresh air" that we are now highlighting the fact that Irish social media influencers are manipulating photos and causing high levels of anxiety and depression among impressionable young followers.

Anonymous social media sites have been set up to call out influencers accused of promoting unattainable perfection among people who are unaware the technology is being used.

Ms Heffernan said: "It's good that people are finally talking about it because social media has become such a superficial world. There are so many apps and so much technology available to change and alter your image that the truth has gone out of the industry entirely."

She added: "If I don't like an image, I won't try and alter it to make myself feel better. I just won't put it on my social media. I look at people online and sometimes feel shame for not looking as 'perfect' as they do, so the last thing I want to do is to make other people feel that way about me.

"In my professional work, it is out of my hands but in my own personal life, I want to try my best to ensure I don't fall victim to other people's shaming [when they call out images for not being real]. People message me saying that I am not as good looking as I think, that is common on social media, but I would rather for them to say that than tell me: 'You don't look like that in reality.' Editing isn't a sin, but it should be something people take into consideration when it comes to having responsibility online because it can be really damaging to themselves and to others in the long run."

Speaking about models and bloggers who use photo-editing apps, she said: "You're only harming yourself. And with talk of mental illness on the rise, it is not helping anyone. They are not helping the person using it, it is enabling mental illness to thrive and they are hurting their own self-esteem.

"When I walk out my front door and someone sees me I want them to say, 'Oh that's the girl from that image' - I don't want people to not recognise me. And if doing that means I don't manipulate and edit my images, then I won't do it."

A recent study suggests millennials are harder on themselves and others than previous generations.

Researchers Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill examined more than 40,000 US, UK and Canadian students, and found the majority showed signs of "multidimensional perfectionism" driven by unrealistically high expectations.

These tendencies could account for mental health issues in millennials, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. The study, which analysed data from the late 1980s through 2016, also found that today's young adults feel significantly more pressure to measure up to their peers. They also tend to judge others by harsh standards.

Sunday Independent

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