Double identity: Beauty apps make it too easy to change your reality online

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Bigger eyes, smaller nose and even a breast enhancement are available through several beauty apps South Koreans are routinely using to modify their virtual appearance. I tried it myself when I was living in Seoul, South Korea, while studying abroad and got hooked. To this day, I still use the apps.

Editing your digital image is so easy to do through the apps that many in the younger generation in South Korea expect everyone to tweak their looks.

“Editing is so common that you seem to be a rebel without any edit done your looks,” said one app fan, SeungHae Ro.

I wanted to fit in so I started to use apps like PhotoWonder, BeautyPlus, B612 and Facetune. Every girl that went to my university was using them. I was still tanning and wearing heavy makeup when I started to notice all these Korean woman with fair skin and natural makeup. I needed to look like them because I felt as if everyone looked at me as strange. After using the apps I felt like I belonged in the group. Many friends began to ask me if I had done plastic surgery because my Instagram pictures did not look like me.

The picture above is the before and after of using three face changing apps. The left photo is the original and right photo has all the alterations of a smaller jaw line, smaller nose, bigger eyes, whiter skin and even fake makeup. I can make myself look like I want to look without going under the knife.

I think that these apps are a cheaper way of modifying your look without plastic surgery. On Instagram, you have all these strangers as followers and the rest a few friends and family. The strangers won’t even know how you look in real life.

instagram user

Instagram user _01.01.17 using face changing apps.

South Korea is also known for its extensive plastic surgery movement and ranks as one of the top countries for procedures done. There are Gangaman districts, which are like the Beverly Hills of Korea with a plastic surgery building on almost every corner. An article written by Patricia Marx for the New York Times, interviewed a student who had a double eyelid surgery who said, “When you’re nineteen, all the girls get plastic surgery, so if you don’t do it, after a few years, your friends will all look better, but you will look like your unimproved you.”

The expectations for digital appearance are also found in the job market and many South Koreans opt to enhance their resume photograph.

I was applying for an internship in Korea for the summer of 2017 when the person that was sending all my documents to all the companies for PR and marketing asked me if I could send a picture of myself. I was confused at first thinking why would I send a picture of myself? This is uncommon in the U.S. The coordinator told me the managers of the company who overseeing the hiring process wanted to know who they were working with. I sent my picture in. Is still didn’t understand until I made friends with my team leader at the company. She told me the hiring process was based first on looks, then on experience and education.

Americans also use some apps, like Snapchat, to modify their appearance but the changes are obvious. Snapchat has cute filters and people know that a person has used a filter. The other applications that I previously mentioned are a more discrete.

The popularity for these face changing apps continues to grow. Everyone wants to look good, but when does an app take over the real you?

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