Photoshop: the Bad News & the Good News

In my last post I talked about the extensive work that goes into making models look perfect in order to advertise clothes for the average-looking woman. It just doesn’t make sense. Advertisers pick out the prettiest girls in the world, put them through hours of hair and makeup, set up the perfect lighting, get the best cameras, spend hours taking the pictures, and then, the icing on the cake, they photoshop those pictures. Voilà! Parfait!

But that’s not the end of the story.

Part deux begins when a normal girl/woman decides to look through a magazine or to watch some television. Now Prweb.com says that “72% of women wear size 12 or above.” So for some girls normal means a size 12, and, for others, normal means a size 2. Tomato. Tomahto. Potato. Potahto. But, you see the problem is that all women see the same thing when they view advertisements: perfect-looking size 0 – size 2 women smiling, flouncing around, and picking up all the men.

We can’t make specific commercials for each and every woman in the world. But can’t we at least expand the range of girls in the advertisements? Would that hurt?

I saw these photos of Diane Keaton via a thread on Reddit (advice: if you value your grades, time with your family, and sunlight please do not sign up for this website). Now Keaton is currently 68 years old. She’s allowed to look a little old, right? This is a picture from the Golden Globes which took place on January 12, 2014:

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No big deal. She looks like a 68 year-old should, right? Now this is a picture from a L’Oréal commercial that played during a commercial break for the Golden Globes on January 12, 2014:

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Unless L’Oréal is using an archived commercial from 1990, I’m pretty sure some heavy photoshop went into that commercial despite the fact that she already had hours of hair and makeup and the best lighting set up possible. Was photoshop really necessary? Why couldn’t she have just looked her age? She certainly would have appealed to the common woman more.

Now here’s a company that decided to take the opposite approach (this is the good news):

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In case you aren’t a female young adult, Aerie is a lingerie store that opened in 2006 as a sister store of American Eagle. They just released this announcement on Friday via their Facebook page. Take a look at the top two comments:

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What did I tell you clothing stores? What has everyone been telling you? If you would stop making your models look like these otherworldly perfect plastic dolls then people will see that you are real and genuine and they will want to buy your clothes more. Aerie was the first to figure it out. I’m interested to see who follows suit. Even if it’s just for the money, it’s a small step in the right direction.

Here’s the first video from the #AerieREAL campaign (released January 17):

And here are some photos from the campaign.

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The girls are obviously still in the top-tier for looks, but I didn’t see any ribs and I see some curves and even some moles. Besides, Aerie is still selling clothing to young adults so we can’t be too hard on them. Business is business.

But, overall, I love this campaign! It’s fresh, fun, and real. I even liked their facebook page, which I don’t do very often because who needs 100 “LIKE OUR PAGE” advertisements on their news feed? So thank you Aerie. You get a well-earned like from me (in addition to the 1.2 other million likes of course).

Get with the program L’Oréal! #AerieREAL

Aerie Twitter: @Aerie

Aerie Facebook: Aerie

Aerie Website: Ae.com/Aerie

The Waste of Mass Media

Yesterday I made a post on weight discrimination. As I was doing my research for that post I ran across this provocative ad:

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As a detail-oriented person I had a lot of questions when I first saw this. How are all of the magazines so perfectly arranged? Did people really throw those in there? If I see one I like can I take it?

Anyway, the ad got my attention, and I decided to look up “nedic” (printed in the bottom left corner). Google revealed that NEDIC stands for the Canada-based National Eating Disorder Information Centre – a non-profit organization aimed at helping to inform the public about eating disorders. Here is a close up of the text in the ad:

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Some people didn’t like the ad, but I do. I think it’s really creative. Advertisements are hard because you have 30 seconds, or one billboard, or one page in a magazine to get your message across. So advertisements don’t have the time or space to hit all of their pros or counterattack all of their cons. They have to pick a focus.

For example, some people saw this ad and said, “Well that’s just silly to blame fashion magazines. They are just a small part of the anorexia problem.”

But these people are missing the focus that the advertisers specifically picked out for this ad. Sure, fashion magazines aren’t solely responsible for the spread of anorexia, but they are definitely a part of the problem. So the NEDIC advertisers decided to focus on magazines for this particular ad.

Even my blog has a focus: “beauty in our society.” Can you imagine doing a blog on “Everything” from photography, to travel, to cooking, to politics, to drawing, to fashion, etc.  Sometimes you have to focus your energies in order to do the job justice.

So kudos to NEDIC for this 2010 ad (3 years late oops).

Now, according to dailylife.com.au, NEDIC complemented this ad with a “gift package” sent out to different fashion houses and magazines. Inside each goody bag was a t-shirt and a thank you card:

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Wow. So that was a bit risky. Some might say that went too far. But, sometimes the point of ads are just to get people talking. Like this 2013 ad from Answers in Genesis (a Christian organization):

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That’s a risky ad. And Answers in Genesis knew that this billboard alone wouldn’t convert anyone to Christianity on the spot. But they knew it would make people talk. And they knew it would drive people to their website listed at the bottom of the billboard where they have more time and space to explain their message (Ken Ham confirmed this in his blog: “A New Atheist Billboard?” ).

I don’t mean to get into advertising, but I think NEDIC was following this approach as well. I mean here I am looking up the NEDIC website three years later.

So, what is the central message of the NEDIC ad? Magazines are HELPING to create negative body image and unrealistic “goal body weights.”  If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, right?

I think that’s the main issue. Magazines have so much potential to be part of the solution, yet they all just follow the same problematic path because it’s safe, and they know it well. Too well. I think all celebrity magazines use the same 30 article titles on rotation: “10 TIPS TO LOOK YOUNGER,” “KIM KARDASHIAN’S NEW MAN,” “20 TIPS TO LOSE THE LAST 20 POUNDS,” “DOES HE REALLY WANT YOU? TAKE THE QUIZ TO FIND OUT!”

Honestly reading the covers of magazines is maddeningly annoying. It’s like a small child screaming the same fragments at you over and over again while holding up a picture of Kim Kardashian. Can they not think of something new and creative? Why are they all content to stay in a rut that is boring to read and harmful to girls’ self esteems.

What if the fashion & celebrity magazine movement finally shifted in a different direction? What if all of the celebrity and fashion magazines held a conference and agreed to clean up their act. If I were invited to this conference these would be my TOP 5 TIPS TO BEING A BETTER MAGAZINE!

1. Use famous and non-famous girls as models, photographers, writers, makeup artists, stylists, etc. Give girls a chance to contribute to what they’re reading and looking at.

2. Dress your cover models in less revealing clothes. Honestly I don’t mind a mini skirt or a strapless dress. This is a fashion magazine after all. But sometimes the clothes are just ridiculous. If you keep revealing yourself to anybody and everybody, pretty soon you will have nothing left to reveal, and your relationship with your current or future significant other will no longer feel special.

3. Freaking smile on the cover already. If I had a nickel for every ‘sexy smolder’ I’ve seen on a magazine cover I’d buy myself a spot on the cover of InStyle magazine, and I would smile my biggest smile no matter how many times they told me to “look pensive.” And I guarantee you that would be their number one seller. I mean which of these magazine covers would you rather buy?

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4. Stop using the same 30 article ideas. This has already been addressed above. But I’m so tired of the top 10 tips to get a better body, make guys want me, and do my makeup better. Besides, that’s all on the internet now anyway.

5. Use girls of all different races, sizes, religious backgrounds, and cultural backgrounds. I mean everyone. I want to see everything from XXS to XXXL. I want to see muslims, christians, and buddhists. I want to see Africans, Europeans, Latinos and Americans. Teach us about other cultures. Teach us to see things from other people’s points of view.

I decided to to present just one example (sorry again to my sister Melissa for using her picture without permission):

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So that’s pretty bad. I hope no graphic design majors see this. I was going for a more informative magazine cover. In all fairness it was done through ‘Preview’ on my mac. I know, I’m cringing too. But here’s the point: mass media is wasted on entertainment.

Mass Media is a powerful entity that  could be used to inform, but instead the majority of it is used to entertain.

Have you ever thought ‘What if I could speak to everyone in the United States or the world for just half an hour? Or what if I could write a single two-page letter to them? What would I say?’

Well, magazines, newspapers, television shows, movies, and online publications have an enormous slice of that opportunity (This wiki page shows that most paid circulations alone reach into the millions). And you want to know what a lot of them use it on? Miley Cyrus and Kim Kardashian.

Why? Because evidently that’s what’s in demand. Internet users spend the majority of their time on Tumblr, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and Instagram looking up memes and pictures.

In November of 2013 ebizmba.com updated the top ten global websites. Want to know some sites that were on this list? YouTube (#2), Facebook (#3), Twitter (#10), and Pinterest (#15).  The rest are mainly search engines.

Using mass media for entertainment is fine, we all need a break sometimes. But this should be more like 15-20% of our mass media intake. Not 90-95%. So, because I really believe in using mass media to inform and educate, here are my favorite educational sites. This is proof that the internet – even sites like YouTube – can be used to inform and to educate.

1. Free courses from Harvard, MIT, Berkeley and a number of other colleges and universities. This is an amazing opportunity to learn from some of the greatest professors in the U.S. for free.

edx.org (free courses from a variety of colleges)

ocw.mit.edu (free courses from MIT OpenCourseWare or visit the front page for more options)

oyc.yale.edu (open courses from Yale)

2. YouTube Crash Course  (AWESOME. This channel has short, well-made videos that take you through our entire world history. The videos are entertaining and informative. They also have separate video series on Chemistry, Biology, Literature, and Ecology.)

3. Learn a Language:

 livemocha.com

 lang-8.com

duolingo.com

4. TEDx (so many awesome videos – here is a link to a top ten TEDx video list)

5. Watch documentaries for free!

topdocumentaryfilms.com

documentaryheaven.com

6. iTunes U (free podcasts on a variety of subjects  that you can listen to while you run, cook or clean!)

There are a ton of educational sites, magazines, books, television shows, and films out there (here’s an extensive list). Don’t let them get buried under the flood of entertainment sites, magazines, books, television shows, and films.

And mass media, don’t waste your potential. Find out what the public needs to know, and report it through articles, videos, magazines, photos, podcasts, etc., making sure that the content is important, relative, helpful, informative, interesting, creative, honest, clear, concise, and fact-based. Easy, right?

Psychology: Body Dysmorphic Disorder

Articles on BDD:

The Basics of BDD

Body dysmorphic disorder: recognizing and treating imagined ugliness

Characteristics, Symptoms, Treatments

Videos on BDD:

BDD documentary

BDD explained in a radio podcast

Kati Morton talks about BDD

Book on BDD:

The Broken Mirror

ATTN: If you think that you might have BDD, here are some questions that you should go through with yourself or a trusted friend: King’s College Questions on BDD. If you need treatment, your best option is to visit a psychologist. Massachusetts General Hospital actually offers some no-cost treatment for people with BDD. You can e-mail them (bdd@partners.org), call them (617-726-6766), or just visit their website (www.mghocd.org/bdd). But, if the first two options are not an option for you at this time, here is a helpful online forum.

Okay so I didn’t want to overload you with a long informational post so I linked some helpful resources on BDD above. Also, you can check out yesterday’s short intro post on BDD. I figured blogging is about using your own voice, not regurgitating information from other sites. So go crazy with those links.

Today’s Post:

I really became interested in BDD last year when I saw a documentary (you can find it in the links above) on BDD. The subjects in the documentary wouldn’t even let the cameraman film their face. I thought wow maybe they really aren’t very good-looking. But, after they get more comfortable with the film crew, they let us catch glimpses of their face and guess what. Completely normal. I would not have given any of them a second glance. And just like that I was captivated by this tragically interesting disorder.

Imagine being in their shoes. Most of them wake up and immediately feel depressed. They walk over to the mirror and may spend up to five hours picking apart their appearance. If they go to work or school, they are usually late. But, many of them have not left their house for years. Then, once they are at work or school, they can’t concentrate on their work because they feel like everyone is judging them. So, many of them drop out of school and are fired from work.

In her book The Broken Mirror, Dr. Phillips says that, out of all the patients that she has seen, people with BDD are the most distressed. They live horrifically stressful lives. They cannot enjoy the best part of life on earth – people – because every time they are around others, they think that their appearance is being scrutinized and judged by those around them. This feeling of being under a direct spotlight may remind you of social anxiety.

However, that is a very significant claim to make: BDD sufferers seem more upset than those with anorexia, schizophrenia, etc., but it’s based on research. In fact, Dr. Philips says that BDD patients are so miserable that nearly all have considered suicide. They feel stuck inside their house. They have dreams and ambitions like everyone else, but they can’t go out into the world to work on them. So they stay at home, miserable, wanting to go out, but knowing that as soon as they do, they will panic and come back inside. Every moment spent in public is a miserable moment.

Dr. Philips even tells the story of one patient who actually made it out of her house. However, when she pulled up to a red light in her car, she was so sure that the people in the cars next to her were staring at her and thinking, “Oh my goodness she is so ugly,” that she actually left her car in the middle of the road and ran away.

So what kind of disorder does this look like to you? What kind of professional would you visit for help? To me, it seemed obvious from the beginning that this was a disorder of the mind and thus would require a psychologist. However, according to Dr. Philips, most of the people with BDD are going to the wrong doctors: plastic surgeons, dermatologists and dentists. They think, if I can just shrink my nose, get rid of my acne and straighten my teeth, then I will look normal enough and I’ll be okay. But, of course, it is never enough. For every flaw you fix, you will notice five more. It is a miserable and never-ending cycle.

I find this interesting. To people on the outside, the solution seems obvious. Not only this, but to people on the outside, there isn’t a problem to begin with. It’s like the patient has built a cage around themselves to hide in. People peer through the cage bars expecting to see a monstrous animal, but are confused – perhaps even a little disappointed – when all they see is a normal-looking boy or girl. They immediately begin to unlock the cage, but the person inside insists on keeping it locked.

This is what it may feel like if you know someone with BDD. Very frustrating. You think, “Why can’t they see that they are normal-looking? Everyone else can see it.” You want to shake them and say “Wake up! Start living! You look fine. No one is thinking that you are hideous looking.” But you have to remember that, just like social anxiety, BDD cannot be fixed just like that. It is much more complex.

BDD is primarily a disease of the mind. There is a disconnect between the left and right side of their brain. I’ll try to keep this simple. The left side of your brain processes details (think language, logic, reasoning), while the right side of your brain processes concepts (think emotion, creativity). Research suggests that people with BDD have trouble connecting the two sides and so they can become fixated on one detail (a flaw in their mind) on their face rather than seeing the whole picture. This once again is similar to social anxiety in that people with s.a. may focus on that one person who said something mean to them rather than on the majority of the people who would love to meet them.

I don’t have an expert solution for BDD. I am way too under-qualified to do that. But for some reason BDD really intrigues me and makes me very sad. I hate that there are people who could be teaching kids, making art, developing new software, or running a non-profit, yet they are stuck inside their house for something so, well, silly. Not that the disorder is silly – it’s very serious – but the whole concept of it if that makes sense. They look fine, but they can’t see that they look fine.  As much as they want to, they cannot make their minds be normal. They can’t just forget about their appearance. They can try to, but they will always run into mental blockage. A miserable and never-ending cycle.

I hate to end on that note, but that is the reality of some disorders.

I will just add that there are psychologists who are qualified, and who have found treatments that have proven effective. They have spent time and energy researching BDD in order to help others. Please see the links at the beginning of the post for more information.

Social Anxiety: a Serious Disorder Requires a Serious Solution

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For the poem that inspired this mini series of posts on social anxiety click here. If you want some basic information on social anxiety for some context click here.

This post will be about my thoughts on social anxiety based on research, experience, and conversations with others. 

Everyone gets nervous in social situations every once in a while. Perhaps at a big business convention or at a dance for all the incoming freshmen.

But imagine waking up in your dorm room with a sinking feeling because you’re already nervous about eating breakfast in front of people in the dining common. So you eat in your room. Then you head to your first class with your head down to avoid eye contact with people. You sit in class and begin working. But you can’t concentrate because you feel like everyone is watching you. Like a spotlight is on you. And everyone is scrutinizing your every move. And no matter how many times people try to tell you that you’re just an extra on stage – the same as everyone else – you can’t shake the feeling. Your next class is across campus. There will be so many people you will have to walk through. The bell rings. You exhale, put your head down, and walk. Your mind is already tired, and you’ve only made it through first period.

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Maybe you’re skeptical about this illustration. Perhaps you’re thinking, why can’t people just get over themselves? No one cares what they do, no one is watching. And, besides, everyone gets nervous sometimes. Well, here’s my response: I think that this is one of the disorders that doesn’t seem serious unless you have it. Psychologists have determined that there is a marked difference between having social anxiety and having a social anxiety disorder. And note that this is listed as a disorder. And it does affect its victims.

I have talked at length with a friend who has social anxiety. She often seems weary because, let’s face it, our society is a very social society. And I think that’s good. We are meant to be with people. Long ago, when we figured out how agriculture works, we all gathered together in cities. We knew that we could help each other if we came together.

But, just take a moment and think about how many activities take place under the scrutiny of the public eye each day. Walking, talking, eating, drinking, answering a question in class, going to the mall with friends, even just studying in a room with other people. While most of these activities seem commonplace to you, to 19.2 million people in America, many or all of these activities cause them great distress. Everyday. Now that’s exhausting.

And, unfortunately, there is no cure all. Telling someone to “Stop being shy” or to “Stop being so nervous” is not going to do anything. It’s like yelling “Grow legs!” to a rock. Nothing is going to happen. Psychologists can prescribe medicine but, as with most mental disorders, this can only do so much.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 10.34.52 PMSo, if you have a friend or family member who suffers from social anxiety, try to place yourself in their shoes. Remember that, especially in college, you are around other people all the time always. And, for some people, this type of environment sucks away their energy. Note: Of course, this can be said of many different issues. Everyone you see on the sidewalk is currently going through some type of trial, be it small or big, short-term or long-term. So be nice and considerate to everyone in general. 

And, if you suffer from social anxiety, try to place yourself in other people’s shoes. First, remember that they have their own issues that they are dealing with. That boy who sits next to you in class probably isn’t scrutinizing your work ethics. He’s too busy trying to pass the class so he doesn’t get yelled at again by his parents who are never proud of him. The girls who were laughing behind you on the sidewalk probably weren’t making fun of your clothes. They were simply reminiscing about their weekend activities. And your classmates probably don’t criticize your eating habits behind your back. They themselves are struggling with eating too much or too little at times.

Second, realize that if you never talk to people, people will probably never talk to you. If you always have your head down and your phone out, people will probably not talk to you. And if you never say yes to an invitation to go somewhere, you will probably not get invited anywhere. I know it’s hard to be social – that’s why we’re talking about social anxiety – but put yourself in their shoes. They probably aren’t rude people for not talking to someone who doesn’t talk back or for not inviting someone who never comes. They themselves dislike being rejected by you – no matter the reason why – just as much as you hate being rejected by others. Don’t give yourself a free pass. You can hurt others even whilst you yourself are hurting.

Is there any solution?

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Now, I know it’s hard to change your thinking patterns. But, I think that the best cure may simply be to forget about yourself. Completely. For a whole day instead of thinking about what others are thinking about you, try to think about what others are thinking about themselves. Is that boy in your class struggling with math? Offer to help him in study hall. Is that girl in your sorority having a hard time because her parents just got a divorce? Offer a listening ear. Are your parents struggling to get dinner on the table? Offer to help cook for them.

At first, this may seem scary to forget about what others might be thinking about you. But, even though I am not a psychologist, I am positive that this is effective. Soon, tuning in to other people’s needs will become second nature to you. People will begin to see you in a new light. They will appreciate that you give your time, energy, money, talents, or whatever it is in order to help them. Even if they don’t say so out in the open, people know when someone is making a sacrifice for them. And they appreciate it. And they remember it.

And soon, these people will be more open to you. As you can imagine, people are much more receptive to people who not only say that they care, but also show that they care. Soon you will find that you have a wide range of loyal friends. Now that, my friends, is living. Not staying inside feeling fear and anxiety all the time. Do not let yourself be defeated. Make yourself go out, and make yourself concentrate on others. Don’t clam up, because once you enter the comfort of your shell, you might not come back out. Break the shell. Smash it. Smash it so that shutting yourself in isn’t an option. Because you have so much to offer. Even to just one person, you could be that listening ear or helpful hand that they need to make it through something really hard. Be open to people, and they will be open to you.

Note: the comic I used comes from Social Anxiety Comics

A Simple Post about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty

In 2004 Dove (soap, body wash, etc.) launched a campaign to encourage women to celebrate their own, unique beauty. Where did their sudden warm-hearted motivation come from? A study that revealed a harrowing statistic: “only 2% of women around the world would describe themselves as beautiful.” In the past 9 years, Dove has worked hard to boost the self-esteem of women worldwide. Their unique methods include:

1) Using normal sized women in their ads, as opposed to a size 0 or 2

2) Producing the short film Evolution (watch it!) which documents the extensive lengths that models go through to look good: hours of hair and makeup and even more hours of photo-shop. This is the standard for girls who wakeup at 7:30am for their 8am class that they stayed up until 2am studying for? I don’t think so.

3) A series of feel-good ads encouraging women to let go of the pressure of looking perfect. Let go of society’s standards of beauty, and embrace beautiful you! Dove wants “to create a world where beauty is a source of confidence and not anxiety.”

Most of these ads are cute. Some are cheesy. But one made me smile and tear up at the same time. It’s called “Camera Shy.” It’s one minute long and there’s no dialogue, but I think it’s brilliant.

So true, right? My dad is a photographer. He always has his camera on him. Always. He says that’s the first sign of a good photographer: they’re always prepared. Let me tell you, he was always prepared. I think I was photographed more than Miley Cyrus as a child. Someone could make a flip book of me growing up. But I loved it! My sisters and I would make up dances or plays and then, after 20 minutes of practice tops, invite our parents to watch our grand performance in the family room. We would even offer them refreshments afterwards. Yes, crackers and water. We were proud of our hard work and we were confidant in our moves. We had on our pink tutus and we felt beautiful.

Everything was so simple back then, right? Those were the good old days (I can’t believe I’m already using that phrase! I promise I’m only 20). If you’re having a down day, I encourage you to take 3 minutes to just transport yourself back to a really joyful and cheery memory from childhood. Remember the sights, sounds, and smells. Picture the expressions on the faces of the people around you and just be there in the moment. Soak it in. Smile. Laugh. And be thankful for such simple and happy times.

Let’s try to get back to those simple times. Forget the standards of society. Let looks fade into the background of the new memories that you make today. One day you will look back on today, and you will not remember what you wore. Perhaps even tomorrow. But, you will remember running on the trail with your friend, going out to eat with your boyfriend, helping out at a soup kitchen, visiting your niece, or surprising your parents with a visit home. So don’t stress about your dress because, in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Live and love.