We live in a time where taking selfies is more popular than ever. Thanks to photo-sharing social media apps such as Instagram, it has become much easier to be swept up by the latest beauty and fashion trends. In China, “beauty” often means having light skin, a V-shaped chin, and big eyes. These beauty standards are reflected in China’s photo-editing apps, the most popular of which is Meitu (美图). This app is used the same way we use filters on Snapchat. You can make your eyes bigger, face smaller, and much more, all in real time!
In honor of National Selfie Day, I decided to download Meitu and see what all the hype was about. Upon downloading and opening the app, I was bombarded by the millions of features that this app has to offer. Did I want to edit my photos? Did I want to take a photo with a filter? If I was editing my picture, did I want to make my skin lighter? Or did I want to make my eyebrows more prominent? It was like I had a (virtual) plastic surgeon at my fingertips!
In truth, I’m a bit upset with how I got caught up in it all. I think that these apps are really fun, and there are plenty of cute and funny filters that you can add to your photos. However, I think that in this culture where you are considered to not look good enough unless you alter your true appearance can be harmful as well. It is harmful for people to feel like they have to constantly keep up with arbitrary beauty standards, and this app only makes the problem worse.
While looking into the selfie culture in China, I came across a quote by the chairman of Meitu, Cai Wensheng. He said, “In the same way that you would point out to your friend if her shirt was misbuttoned, or if her trousers were unzipped, you should have the decency to Meitu her face if you are going to share it with your friends”.
In my eyes, his statement expressed all the things that I dislike about social media - polished photos that express unattainable beauty standards. But if so many people in China (and around the world) are a part of this culture, is there something that I’m not understanding? Do people have the same attitude towards “meitu-ing” their faces as they do with wearing makeup?
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