Hell on earth is in California. At least that’s what you could assume if you saw pictures of the US west coast in the past week. The raging firestorm there ensured that the sky turned red in the reflection of more than a hundred uncontrolled forest fires. Property was destroyed, nature destroyed, residents on the run.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the local people couldn’t even take decent photos of the apparent apocalypse. Because the automatic image enhancement software, which works in secret in many modern smartphones, did not allow the mercury-orange colored surface in the photos to be sky. And accordingly converted the infernal clouds of fire into a harmless, boring gray. The residents were only able to bypass the self-censorship of the camera and document what was happening with great effort.

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The anecdote teaches several things. For example, that a function that is used to make the real world look a bit more beautiful is overwhelmed by the harsh reality. Or that the user hardly notices how much the technology is already interfering with our perception. And of course that nowadays it is sometimes very difficult to get unfiltered access to reality.

The last point in particular does not only apply to doomsday motifs, but also to the selfies of quasi-celebrities on Instagram. They only have to do with reality to a limited extent. For a few weeks now, a law has been discussed in Great Britain that would oblige influencers to mark retouched images as such. Just as the various product placements have to be provided with the word advertising today, this should happen in a similar way in the future when the image has been edited. The aim is to protect the often young observer from unrealistic ideals of beauty and body perception disorders.

The latest trend: a metallic sheen on your face

The “Instagram Face” with its soft focus aesthetic has meanwhile become a cultural fixture. Automatic retouching apps with emblematic names such as Plastica or even Fix Me are intended to provide a result like after a cosmetic operation. The Celebface account meticulously tracks down the telltale signals of manipulation in the photos of the stars. If you want to treat yourself to such a critical dispute, you can also simply book the complete package with high cheekbones, dominant chin, lips filled to the point and huge, slightly almond-shaped eyes with the beauty surgeon. Some doctors themselves have become half celebrities with hundreds of thousands of followers.

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You can find this obsessive, but for the majority of users the best of the beauty ideals that the algorithms of the apps give users’ faces is just the contemporary form of a quick eyeliner correction on the club toilet. In a media reality in which one continuously transmits one’s self into the internet, the permanent perfecting of one’s own staging is almost pathologically disciplined.

The latest trend seems to be to add a metallic sheen to your face or, for whatever reason, overlay your forehead with the logos of luxury brands. In the best case scenario, the photos edited in this way look like those of a benevolent android. Those who overdo it, on the other hand, get a completely alien facial expression. And everyone participates. The faces are optimized accordingly, which promises the highest user loyalty and the most likes. It’s as if technology were redefining users’ bodies according to their own interests.

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