Selfies make you look slimmer, but it's not all good news

Selfies make you look slimmer, but it's not all good news

Popularized with social media, selfies allow you to present yourself in the most flattering light, especially when it comes to your weight! A study has demonstrated how a simple photo can make you appear thinner, but it's far from a good thing!

Arch your back, suck in your belly, tighten your buttocks, tilt your head slightly, and, most importantly, smile! You're now ready to post yet another selfie on your social networks! And, as much as possible, a flattering selfie. It's normal: since the advent of cameras, we've generally tried to look our best in photos to capture a good moment. This natural tendency has intensified in recent years with the popularity of selfies – these modern self-portraits – and social networks. For some, appearing thin in photos makes them feel beautiful, especially in an era where appearance is becoming increasingly important, and we spend our time exposing ourselves to others' eyes, especially with those famous selfies – even if it means "cheating" a bit. For this, the angle of the photo plays a significant role, without necessarily needing to use tons of filters on the picture. A study published on October 11 in the scientific journal PLOS One reveals that women can appear slimmer in selfies than in photos taken from other angles. However this has consequences...

How the shooting angle deceives our perception

Ruth Knight and Catherine Preston, respectively a professor and a lecturer in psychology at the University of York in the UK, conducted a little experiment. They asked ten female models to dress in tight sports outfits and take photos of themselves or be photographed in various ways. For each participant, the following photos were taken:

  • A selfie where she extends her arm;
  • A photo taken by someone else;
  • A self-portrait with the chin lowered;
  • A selfie where she uses a selfie stick;
© Unsplash

The faces were excluded from the images, with the focus solely on the appearance of the bodies from different angles. The researchers then asked adult women aged 18 or older with no history of eating disorders to evaluate the weight and attractiveness of the models in the different photos. The result: participants tend to judge the bodies in the selfie images as slimmer than those in photos taken by an external person. Of the three selfie/self-portrait angles, the one with the lowered chin was considered less attractive – showing that it's essential to keep your head up! In conclusion: we appear slimmer in our photos than in those taken by our friends!

But that's not the end of the story. "Many of us see selfies every day as we browse through the growing number of social media platforms," explain the study's authors. "This research suggests that the angle from which the photo is taken can alter our judgment of body size. When we consume images on the internet, even simple, unfiltered selfies, what we see isn't necessarily an accurate representation of real life." However, the data suggests that looking at selfies could be more damaging than other photos for people vulnerable to eating disorders.

Indeed, participants who had presented more symptoms of eating disorders through a pre-filled questionnaire tended to have a more favorable opinion of the selfies presented compared to other photos. "Given the increasing problems with body image and eating disorders, it is essential to understand the impact of social media on body image," explains Dr. Ruth Knight. "One of the peculiarities of social media is that it allows us to take photos of ourselves and then upload them to be seen by a vast network of people. Awareness of how we judge images can help mitigate the negative effects on body satisfaction, diets, and the risk of eating disorders." Of course, the study is not without its flaws, including its limited participant pool. But it's yet another example that social media provides us with rather unrealistic images of the body. This adds to the mental pressure on many people, especially young girls, who seek to portray the best image of themselves.