The internet has revolutionized communications, making it easier than ever before for people to seek out information as well as giving a voice to the voiceless. But as positive as these aspects are, conversely, the dark underbelly of the internet has equally ugly consequences. This week saw headlines regarding the virality of the "Hot Water Challenge," which has proved to be deadly for at least one child thus far. And now another disturbing trend has pushed to the forefront: editing babies' features for likes.
Defying both logic and morals, people are poaching photos of cute babies from their mothers' accounts, editing certain features to look different and then posting the two side-by-side, asking viewers to comment which one they like more. They make edits such as eye color, adding or removing freckles, and in some cases, adding what looks like makeup to young children's faces, as seen below.
One mother in particular saw her photo being jacked and reposted all over Instagram. Caroline Enterfeldt manages an Instagram account of photos of her two children that has some 12K likes. Her children are biracial and beautiful, but the internet has chosen to change her daughter's appearance in particular. Her baby girl started appearing on numerous accounts with edited features. "I'm just annoyed that the photo is everywhere," Enterfeldt said.
But the psychology behind this new trend is darker than a mere annoyance. So-called attempts to make babies "cuter" shows that for most, the definition of cute are Euro-centric features. This baby is beautiful the way she is, and in fact, the altered eyes are kind of scary and bring to mind Kanye at the Met Gala in colored contacts vibes. The startling message behind the edits is clear: the white-washed edit is what some consider "cuter." As if women didn't have enough unrealistic beauty expectations weighing on them, now human beings in their first years of life are being told they'd be better looking if they were different.
The edits with makeup add insult to injury. This bizarre practice brings into question the sexualization of young children. By applying make up to young children's faces, they're lending an adult feature to a child, which is equal parts disturbing and concerning.
This new trend poses a question regarding autonomy over one's photos. If you're sharing photos of your children on public accounts, they're liable to be stolen and edited for engagement on someone else's account. There's no black-and-white answer about how we should think about privacy on the internet, and a one-size-fits-all approach won't necessarily work. Rather, it begs some soul searching: should you be publicly documenting your children's lives when their photos may end up in the wrong hands? Just food for thought.
(Photos: Laila Loves via Twitter)