The “Instagram Reality” Community Is Dedicated To Exposing The Fakest Photos Online, Here Are 40 Of Their Best Posts (New Pics)
I’m just going to smooth out this ooooone pimple. It’ll be gone in a few days anyway, so it will be a more accurate representation of what I look like! Okay, maybe a little saturation here and there, and it wouldn’t hurt to make myself look a tiny bit taller. I do look like that from some angles! While I’m at it, I might as well adjust my arms a tiny bit and smooth out the rest of my skin. Okay, done! Posting it now. Wait, I forgot to contour my nose!
Editing photos can be a dangerous game. One moment you think you’re just going to enhance the colors in the picture, and before you know it, the subject featured is unrecognizable to you. But you’ll post the pic on social media claiming it’s a selfie anyway… As editing apps and websites have become more advanced over the years and the pressure to be perfect online seems to be mounting, Instagram has become saturated with photos that are extremely fake.
So to call out the people who aim to pass off cartoon versions of themselves online, the Instagram Reality subreddit was born. We’ve compiled some of the best posts from the community down below to serve as a reminder that you can’t trust everything you see on the internet. Below, you'll also find an interview with award-winning professor of psychology and author of the book Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln, to hear her take on the obsession with editing online.
Be sure to upvote the pics you find most hilarious or cringe-worthy, and then let us know in the comments how you feel about the incessant photo editing on social media. And if you’re interested in viewing even more of these photos that aren’t fooling anyone, you can find Bored Panda’s last article on the same topic right here.
Found This Photo On The Internet - It's A Very Unusually Small Giraffe
10 years ago, it might have been startling to see heavily edited photos on Instagram, but over time, they have become almost impossible to avoid. Most of the photos celebrities share have been curated to look a certain way, and even your friends who don’t have a large following online or use Instagram for their careers might be avid users of Facetune and loads of filters. Lots of followers emulate what they see shared by the Kardashians and influencers of the world, and unfortunately, that has created an endless cycle of fake photos that are begging to be called out.
The Instagram Reality subreddit was started in 2017, and it currently has 1.1 million members. It’s not surprising how popular it has become though, as there is unlimited content being shared on the app constantly that members can roast with one another. Some of the most popular topics in the subreddit are “Uncanny Valley”, “Warped Fail”, “Close Friends Only Post”, “Skin Texture? Never Heard Of It…” and “Not Instagram But…”, and they are all full of photos that are painfully obviously fake. Yet somehow, they still made it onto the internet.
To gain some insight from an expert on this topic, we reached out to award-winning professor of psychology and author of the book Beauty Sick, Dr. Renee Engeln. When asked why our Instagram feeds are so heavily edited, Dr. Engeln says it comes down to a couple of reasons. "The first is because they’re looking for a self-esteem boost. You wouldn’t edit an image of yourself unless you believed it would make you more attractive, and people want to post attractive photos of themselves because these photos draw praise and attention from others," she told Bored Panda. "Of course, these super-perfected posts often draw annoyance as well. But basic politeness prevents most people from commenting, 'I wish you’d stop editing your photos and just be yourself.' Instead, these edited photos tend to prompt comments like, 'So beautiful!' followed by whatever the popular 'you’re so sexy' emoji of the day is."
"The second reason people post these types of photos is because they believe doing so will help them make money," Dr. Engeln explained. "Not everyone is out to be an influencer, of course. But attractive photos draw more followers, which can bring more offers for paid endorsements or other money-making opportunities. If you’re trying to turn social media semi-fame into an income stream, of course you’ll edit the hell out of your photos. It’s part of the game and everyone knows it."
We also asked if she believes these people think they are fooling anyone with their heavy Photoshop hands. "Are you fooling anyone with those too-perfect photos? You probably fool some people who are less experienced users of social media. But in the end it doesn’t matter if you’re fooling people," Dr. Engeln says. "Fake hot is still hot when it comes to how media images are perceived. If knowing images were edited to the point of absurdity really bothered people that much, why would the Kardashians have so many followers?"
When it comes to the effects these types of photos can have, Dr. Engeln says, "These posts aren’t good for the mental health of the people who post them or the people who consume them. Consumers of these images end up comparing their own (real) appearance to the fake appearance presented in edited photos. And that happens whether you know a photo is edited or not. These comparisons are quick, automatic, and very difficult to stop."
"Almost 20 years ago, I conducted a study in which young women looked at magazine images of models," Dr. Engeln told Bored Panda. "One young woman in the study wrote, 'I wish my shoulders looked like her airbrushed ones.' I think about that quote all the time. It’s a great reminder that knowing something is fake doesn’t stop us from wanting it. It’s also in line with the substantial amount of research data showing that warning people that an image of a model is retouched does nothing to reduce the body dissatisfaction looking at that image can cause." Dr. Engeln also shared links to some of her relevant writing on this topic here and here.
"People who post these heavily retouched images of themselves can end up feeling dissatisfied or ashamed in response to their real physical appearance," she explained. "How can you feel okay about what you see in the mirror if it looks nothing like the images of you that generate so much praise on social media? It’s hard enough to compare yourself to images of models or celebrities. Think about how bad it feels to fall short when you compare your real self to the self you’ve created for social media consumption. Retouching images before posting them also contributes to a type of photo-editing arms race. If everyone else is editing their photos, your photos will look worse in comparison if you don’t edit them. So there’s a lot of subtle pressure to join in."
Finally, we asked Dr. Engeln if she believes there is a solution to all the rampant Facetuning and photo editing online. "The fake-looking photos on Instagram are a symptom of a bigger problem, which is our culture’s complete obsession with how people – especially women – look," she says. "It’s totally normal for people to care about how they look and to notice how others look. But modern media culture has nudged this emphasis into truly unhealthy territory for a lot of people."
"What I suggest for people who want to push back against an appearance-obsessed culture is to take some time to think about what your values are. What matters to you? What’s really important to you? Then make small changes to how you spend your time and emotional energy to bring your life more into alignment with those values. Those small changes might include rethinking what you post and consume on social media."
If you'd like to delve deeper into this topic and hear more expertise from Dr. Engeln, you can find her book Beauty Sick right here.
I Saw This And Thought Y’all Would Like It Of One Of Our Faves
As hilarious as it is to see photos that look like they have been mangled in Photoshop by a child, we can’t discuss the topic of Instagram vs. reality without addressing the elephant in the room: body dysmorphia. Obviously, if someone feels the need to contort their body beyond recognition and change all of their facial features to feel confident enough to share a photo online, they might have some self-esteem issues. I don’t necessarily see a problem with editing a photo for the sake of making the lighting look nicer or removing a pimple here or there (I’m definitely guilty of that one!). But there have to be limits.
When a person goes out of their way to share a photo that looks nothing like them, they are, albeit maybe subconsciously, saying that they wish they looked differently. If they were truly confident and loved and accepted their body and their appearance, they would feel no need to try to portray themselves differently online. It is sad to think about how many people so desperately want to be perceived as ‘beautiful’ or ‘skinny’ or whatever else the current trend is. But these insecurities rarely pop up out of nowhere. They are likely a response to societal pressure.
If we did not see airbrushed and ‘perfected’ photos of celebrities and if we had no knowledge of apps like Facetune, would we still feel the desire to manipulate our bodies in photos? I’m not so sure. I remember noticing wrinkles on my face in middle school and feeling insecure about them, but I didn’t feel the need to minimize their appearance in photos. And I know for a fact that the idea that “wrinkles are bad” was not an original thought I had. It came from magazine covers, makeup advertisements and Real Housewives I had seen on TV.
However, apps and filters can and have had a very real impact on many people’s self-esteem. One 28-year-old opened up to Vox about how she began using Facetune to minimize a few wrinkles on her forehead, and it soon snowballed into her making appointments for Botox. “If I already have an indent in my forehead [now], how bad is it going to be when I’m 60?” she wondered. Since then, she has started getting injections every nine months, has had her lips filled and her skin lasered “because it didn’t look pretty on camera".
Got This Heresy On My Yt Front Page. It Hurts Me On Too Many Levels
DC-based dermatologist Noëlle Sherber says there is a new wave of plastic surgery inspired by apps and filters. “I have a lot of millennials as part of my practice,” she told Vox. “Most of the time, they want to talk about how they appear in their edited photos. And they are looking to explore options of how to translate that into reality.” Common alterations patients ask Sherber for are fuller lips, thinner noses, brighter skin, or even enlarged eyes and changes to the proportions of their face. “Some of the changes they are making to their faces are not achievable,” she noted. “We can’t do that in real life. And if they really can’t be made to match that, they will be inherently disappointed.”
This growing trend of having unrealistic expectations due to seeing edited photos is being referred to as “Snapchat dysmorphia”. But it’s not just a beauty trend or something to mock on Reddit, it is a disturbing psychological phenomenon. Back in the day, a photo was just a photo and only professionals had access to tools like Photoshop. But today, we all have constant access to cameras and editing technology that can allow us to see fake or distorted versions of ourselves even more than we see our own reflections. “It can be argued that these apps are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well,” write doctors at Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology in a JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery article.
Another JAMA article warns that even an unedited selfie may not be an accurate representation of how we look. Apparently, due to the way selfie cameras often distort an image slightly, our noses can appear 30% larger in these photos. So if you suddenly feel the need to get a nose job because you took one selfie that you find unflattering, please, do not rush into the plastic surgeon’s office. In 2017, 55% of facial plastic surgeons reported seeing patients who wanted procedures done that would help them look better in selfies, but the reality is that the selfies they were basing these decisions on were distorted versions of their faces in the first place. People need to understand that taking drastic, expensive measures to look better online is not the way to fix their body dysmorphia or self-esteem issues. In fact, it will likely only exacerbate the problem.
I can’t help but feel sympathy for the people out there who have allowed Instagram photos to permeate their brains and negatively affect their self-esteem, but it’s time that we stop falling for the tricks of the influencers and Kardashians of the world. Their photos are heavily edited, so we cannot expect to look like them. Kim Kardashian probably doesn’t even look like her photos, and she is complicit in perpetuating unrealistic and toxic beauty standards. We are well aware of the fact that if a photo looks suspiciously perfect, it has probably been tampered with, and if you can actually tell that it’s been edited, there has probably been a lot done to it. If you’re tired of seeing photos that look way too airbrushed or perfect, unfollow the accounts that are giving you grief! Life is way too short to spend time obsessing over having perfect selfies (that mean nothing in real life). Purge your feed of anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself, and start embracing what you really look like in photos and in person.
Another unsettling impact of these overly edited photos is that many of the women posting them end up looking eerily similar. They distort their faces to look like the ‘beautiful’ influencers they follow, and over time, they all start looking the same. Then these women, and many others, bring these photos into plastic surgeons’ offices, and they permanently transform into this “Instagram face” that was never even real to begin with. And as Dr. Renee Engeln told The Huffington Post, “We don’t all look young and we don’t all have full lips and smooth skin, and when you see this kind of uniformity, it’s a real denial of human physical features. I think that’s ugly no matter what. That kind of denial hurts people. It makes them feel erased, and for women in particular, it makes them spend God knows how much time trying and trying to reach that look that they may be genetically unable to reach.”
She's From Finland And Gets Upset When People Claim That She Edits Her Pics
But social media does not have to be all bad, Dr. Engeln says. “One of the good things social media does is allow people to seek out feeds that do represent more diversity. So you don’t have to have a feed where everyone’s face looks the same. You can opt out of that. I think that’s the promise. Social media is democratizing in some ways. You’re not just letting fashion magazines dictate what faces we see. I think that’s really great.” So as hard as it may be to post an unedited photo or remind yourself that we really don’t know what most influencers look like in person, remember that the internet is not reality. No matter how hard people may try to convince you, and themselves, that it is.
We hope you're getting a kick out of these ridiculously edited photos. I'm sure none of you pandas out there would ever post a photo that deserves a spot on this list, but I'd still like to remind you that less is more when it comes to editing. Be sure to keep upvoting the photos that you want to call the Instagram vs. Reality police on, and let us know in the comments how you feel about apps like Facetune. Then if you'd like to see even more of these hilarious photo editing fails, you can find our last article on the Instagram Reality subreddit right here.