Photoshopping grief: Mental health concerns over editing deceased in photos

11 Jun 2024 09:30am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - In a time where editing photos is common, a troubling trend has emerged. People are now editing photos to make it look like their deceased loved ones are in the picture.

While this can sometimes help people cope with grief or honour those who have passed away, it also raised significant mental health concerns.

International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM) associate professor Dr Hijaz Ridzwan said editing photos of a person who had died might reflect unresolved mourning or an inability to let go.

For those posting these images on social media, he said it can be a way to deal with grief, but it may also signify deeper emotional struggles.

As for the viewers, especially those close to the deceased, he said such images could also trigger grief, discomfort or distress and might be seen as insensitive or inappropriate.

He said while there was no definitive right or wrong approach, he would advise caution.

"There are several psychological risks associated with posting edited pictures that misrepresent reality.

"These include the development of a false sense of self, increased anxiety and depression due to the pressure of living up to an unrealistic online persona.

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"Using other people's pictures or heavily edited photos can lead to more serious issues like confusion, detachment from reality and strained relationships with friends and family who feel deceived," he said.

Meanwhile, he said friends and family members should be alert to signs such as obsessive photo editing, distress when unable to edit photos, frequent comparisons to others online and significant changes in behaviour or mood related to social media use.

He said these could indicate deeper issues like body dysmorphia or severe social anxiety.

Dr Hijaz also advised those struggling with the urge to heavily edit or filter their pictures to focus on self-acceptance and self-compassion.

Engaging in activities that build self-esteem and taking breaks from social media can help reduce the pressure of maintaining online appearances, he added.

"In the end, while there's no definitive right or wrong approach to posting edited photos, caution and sensitivity are essential.

"By being mindful of the potential psychological impacts, individuals can better navigate the complex interplay between grief, image and mental health," he said.