Social media is part of Jimmy Justine’s daily routine. The 25-year-old Dar es Salaam resident spends a considerable amount of time browsing social media and swiping on his smartphone.
Jimmy met Mary through Snapchat during one of his online engagements. He was struck by her beauty after seeing several of her photos on the app. She looked gorgeous and Jimmy could not help but send her a message.
Being single and searching, the accountant at a local non-governmental organisation decided to try his luck with this beauty. She had all the qualities any man would want in a woman.
“Those photos made me start following Mary who was kind enough to respond to my first message. We started chatting, exchanged photos and eventually started dating online,” he says.
A few months later, the two finally agreed to meet at Mlimani City shopping mall. “I was really anxious to meet this beautiful girl. I made sure I looked as presentable as possible on the first day to avoid disappointing her.”
As he waited at Samaki Samaki for his date to arrive, Jimmy whiled away the time swiping through his smartphone. He was sure he would easily recognise her the moment she entered since he had seen lots of her photos.
The clock ticked away and there was no sign of Mary. He dialed her number to only realise that she had all along been at the rendezvous. She was seated at some corner all this while, waiting for him.
“I could not believe my eyes when she picked the phone. Was she the one really? I wondered. She looked so different from the one I had been chatting with online. I wanted to leave the place quickly but she already had seen me,” recalls Jimmy.
He joined the girl at her table and wished it was all a dream. Going by his online girlfriend’s photos, the girl sitting in front of her was quite the opposite. Her online girl was tall, slender and fair-skinned while the one infront of him was chubby, dark and short. Jimmy realised he had been duped. He was disappointed and heartbroken that he just excused himself and left.
Jimmy hated the girl for being fake. He wondered why he never thought she could have edited her photos. He had seen edited photos before but if the girl he met was the one whose photos had attracted him online, then she had overdone it.
Like Jimmy, many have been disappointed after meeting the people they had been communicating with online. Women, especially are said to have been using social media apps to manipulate unsuspecting online admirers. They use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and IBM to post over edited pictures, which make them look more attractive than they actually are.
Sometimes what we see on social media is exaggerated. Some people take pictures at twisted angles and suck in their stomach to either get a wasp waist or a perfect bum. Others retouch the photos to show flawless skin while there are those who post perfect family photos that have been filtered, making many want to be like them.
Editing photos has become an obsession to some people, such that they cannot share photos on social media without retouching them first. It’s a global trend as we read now and then about international celebrities who get shamed by fans for posting heavily retouched photos.
Agnes David 24, is glad there are a number of photo editing apps to choose from. Who does not like looking good? she queries. Good looks, she says make anyone feel good, confident and above all, edited photos make you look fashionable.
She says it doesn’t take long to get a perfect look online. Neither do you have to break the bank to get the look of your choice. 500mb of data is enough, according to Agnes.
“I know being over edited is fake but I like it sometimes because you don’t want to appear with pimples. It is not bad to have a new look as long as you post decent pictures,” Agnes says.
Nkwabi Sabasaba, a psychologist says most people, especially young girls, who over edit their photos do so due to lack of self-confidence. These have either been neglected by lovers or they grew up hearing negative comments about them from their parents.
The expert says when dumped by partners, some girls tend to lose confidence and think they are not good-looking. They edit their photos to look attractive since they believe they are not beautiful.
This is a big mistake that girls are making because it could put off potential partners once they meet them in person, Nkwabi warns.
Agnes agrees confidence issues could be the reason people want to look flawless in photos. They edit photos to get many likes on social media. It doesn’t feel good when people view your photo and make no positive comments, she says.
Nkwabi says one needs to accept and be comfortable with who they are. He says doing so gives you confidence which makes people love you unconditionally.
“You should understand that the number of likes on social media does not determine your beauty. You should change and be real. Change the way you think about yourself.”
He cautions that not everything that people post on social media is true about their lives. People should stop comparing their life to the life of people displaying perfect lives on social media. The reality is that many are just struggling like everyone else. The psychologist says over editing photos is fooling oneself.
For 25-year-old Noela Michael, editing photos is a hobby. Snapchat enables her to share photos that make her look awesome. With the app, she can decorate her photo as much as she wants. She can apply lipstick, mascara, put on wigs or cartoon cat ears if she so wishes, and look attractive instantly by just swiping on her smartphone.
“I do not need to have a make-up kit or do real make up before taking photos to share. Snapchat does that for me,” she says.
Like Agnes, Noela is obsessed with the number of likes her photos get. “Thanks to this application, we get more likes on social media,” she says. She immediately deletes photos that get few likes or don’t get any at all. Apart from being viewed negatively by some people, Agnes says edited photos can help raise your online profile. She knows people whose businesses have flourished because of good looks made possible by photo editing. She does not mind being judged.
To avoid backlash, some people are now informing followers, which photos are real and which ones are edited.
A renowned business woman, Faiza Ally is among those who have chosen to be open about it. She posts different photos of her children and indicates which ones are edited and which ones are not.
Faiza has written on her Instagram page cautioning parents against posting over edited photos of their children. She fears this might make children grow up with a fake identity, which could negatively affect their future.
She says children might grow up faking everything including their identities because to them, life will be all about perfection and nothing short of that.
Nkwabi the psychologist says if the trend continues, there is a danger of creating a fake life-obsessed generation.
Nkwabi already sees a smartphone addicted generation of youngsters who cannot go for an hour without their smartphones. “They fear missing out. They are so addicted to their phones that they feel empty when they don’t get to share edited photos of their dailymoments,” Nkwabi notes.
Getting used to likes for their photos might lead to psychological problems if they don’t get likes anymore. Another danger that the psychologist sees is the possibility of encouraging youngsters to engage in sexual relations early.