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April 30, 2021
April 30, 2021
Luke Gilford

Dove and its long-term ad agency Ogilvy initiated the fight against unrealistic beauty standards in 2004 when they kicked off the Dove Self-Esteem Project. Fifteen years after releasing the iconic Evolution film addressing image manipulation in advertising, Dove is tackling the issue of digital distortion again with a new film, Reverse Selfie, which depicts how far retouching apps can distort reality and how young girls are changing their appearance for social media.

Nicknamed “generation selfie,” young people are more likely to suffer low self-esteem as a result of social media. Rooted in new research from the Dove Self-Esteem Project, the film considers the emotional and physical stages of posting a selfie, highlighting how editing tools once only available to professionals can now be accessed by young people at the touch of a button, without regulation. After a year of increased screen time and subsequent increased exposure to unrealistic beauty ideals and pressures due to the pandemic, there has never been a more important time to act to address this issue.

Firdaous El Honsali, Dove Global Communications & Sustainability Director shares, “For over 60 years, Dove has advocated for real beauty. Part of that is our ‘No Digital Distortion’ Mark—that tells you that the people in our ads are just as you’d see them in real life. With the rise of social media, digital distortion is now happening on a much bigger scale, by younger people, without regulation. We see so much creativity and expression of self-identity through the use of filters, but when editing apps are used to digitally distort images to conform to unrealistic beauty standards that cannot be achieved in real life, it can be damaging to the self-esteem of young people. Dove wants to highlight this issue and provide tools to parents and carers to help young people navigate social media in a positive way.”

A new Canadian study conducted by the Dove Self-Esteem Project, which fueled the development of the Reverse Selfie film, reinforces that we’re amid a confidence crisis. Canadian girls ages 10–17 years old were surveyed, and research results show that:

  • 80% of girls have downloaded a filter or used an app to change the way they look in photos by the age of 13
  • 67% of girls try to change or hide at least one body part/feature before posting a photo of themselves
  • 59% of girls with lower body esteem regularly distort their photos before posting them on social media
  • 37% of girls say they don’t look good enough without any photo editing
  • Importantly, girls said that if images on social media were more representative of the way girls look in everyday life, they would feel more confident:
  • 67% of girls say they would not end up feeling judged on the way they look
  • 66% of girls would be less worried about the way they look
  • 63% of girls wish the world would focus more on who they are instead of what they look like

It’s clear from the research that we need to help girls navigate social media in a positive way, making it more about self-expression and less about validation.

Professor Phillippa Diedrichs, Research Psychologist at the Centre of Appearance Research at the University of West England, and body image expert, says, “Although certain aspects of social media can promote connection and well-being, in recent years dozens of scientific studies have shown that social media can negatively influence body confidence, mood, and self-esteem. This happens when users spend significant amounts of time posting selfies, using editing apps and filters to alter their appearance, comparing themselves to others, and seeking validation through comments and likes. It’s therefore imperative that we help young people to develop skills to navigate social media in a healthy and productive way.”

82% of parents have the sex talk, but just 30% are talking to their kids about the pressures of social media. Dove has joined forces with superstar and body confidence advocate Lizzo with the shared mission of making a positive experience of beauty universally accessible to all. The Selfie Talk and New Confidence Kit from the Dove Self-Esteem Project begins this work with the aim of building confidence and self-esteem in the next generation so they grow up realizing their full potential.

Lizzo shares, “I love how this generation is so creative in the ways in which they express themselves. It’s really inspiring to see how people are taking their identity and their beauty into their own hands. However, people are struggling with their self-image and self-confidence more than ever. This is amplified by the increasing pressure to show a digitally distorted version of ourselves, reinforcing the idea that our beauty in real life is not good enough or worthy of likes. That’s why the Dove Self-Esteem Project and I want you to have The Selfie Talk with a young person in your life. It’s happening to young people everywhere, so let’s talk about it.”

This is where The Selfie Talk comes in – having a conversation with a young person in your life to help them be their most confident self and have a positive experience online.

Dove wants to make it easier for parents to have The Selfie Talk with their kids by providing free Dove Self-Esteem Project tools so that kids can navigate social media with confidence. Since the launch of their self-esteem work in 2004, Dove has reached over 3.5 million Canadians, supporting their global mission in helping 250 million kids to build self-esteem by 2030.


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