An Augmented Reality body modification feature is touted to be the next big thing, considering how obsessed we are with the way we look. These days almost every photo we click, undergoes a series of edits to “redefine” the way we want the world to see us. There are photo editing apps which remove wrinkles from your face and trim your waistline or elongate your face. So, how can an app, which lets you alter your facial features, body weight, skin colour and whatnot in 4-D, not be received with enthusiasm by the people?
But what does that say about us? Are we so dissatisfied with ourselves that we are willing to trade our real lives with digital ones, just for the sake of virtual satisfaction? What happens when reality comes crashing on this temporary happiness?
Remember the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter? The one which showed the viewer his most desired fantasies coming true? Professor Dumbledore warns Harry that life can pass you by while you are clinging on to a wish that can never be fulfilled. The mirror is bewitching and tantalising, but it does not essentially bring happiness.
The makers claim that this app will help the user in creating a perfect video according to their own definition of beauty. The video platform with special effects will use AI, AR, independently innovated body recognition and body movement tracking which will help users create heroic or fiction characters like in the movies. Which means we can fight 20 goons or sing romantic songs on the serene shores of Mauritius. We can bomb our social media connections with home-made music videos and films starring us in all our glory.
For a generation, which is increasingly becoming disconnected from the reality, this is not good news. Video and photo editing apps, which let you alter your bodily features are increasingly crowding the app market. What started with airbrushing and being able to clean the blemishes on your skin, has now escalated to virtual weight reduction, rhinoplasty and accessorising. Where does it stop?
My problem with body shaping apps is that they play on our inner insecurities. They draw us in by a promise of giving us a better version of ourselves. Soon the virtual satisfaction of having a skin tone two shades lighter leads us to trimming of those extra pounds. And before most people know it, they are completely detached from their real self.
The desire to become a virtually perfect version of ourselves can be addictive. It can make us resent reality because we can practically never match the artificially generated beauty standards in real life.
This may give rise to aggression, depression or disinterest in our real surroundings. Augmented reality body modification apps are not very different from the Mirror of Erised. They are engaging but engulfing. They titillate us with an apparent better version of us, but they will definitely make us unhappy in the long run. It may render users unable to accept or mingle in their real surroundings forever. This rejection of the real world will eventually cause adjustment problems and may prove costly on personal and professional fronts.
But it is not easy to run away from these apps. It’s hard to resist the temptation to trim your double chin in a photograph, when it is just a stroke away. So the question here is no longer whether or not these apps are good for us. We are way past that point. What we need to discuss now is how does one not let an app to rule his or her life? Moreover, how does one remain in the realm of reality despite being increasingly pushed into the virtual sandpit.
The answer is simple. Learn to switch off the digital world and try to spend more time in the real one.
Photo Credit : Chicago Tonight
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.