Why appearance-altering app Manly isn't worth the download

There's a disturbing moment in life many of us with partners who are active on social media can relate too. You've been to a party so you decide to pop a fun shot of you and your beloved up on Facebook or Instagram. She likes that kind of thing, you showing all her friends how much you love her. You squint at the shot, Yep, she's beautiful. Up it goes. Her phone pings and she immediately starts shrieking as if a large huntsman has taken up residence in her underwear.

"Oh my God," she screams, "take that down. I look fat. Are you insane. Now! Delete! Delete!"

You wait for half an hour until a shot of her liking, with the appropriate lighting and angles, is selected, cropped, filtered, photo-shopped, reconsidered and redone and finally sent to you with approval. She now looks like a missing Kardashian.

Men, never post without approval. It just makes life easier for everyone.

The pressure to perform

But blokes are now increasingly under the same pressures as women to project an image that is glossy, sexy, and enviable in both physique and lifestyle. It's not easy keeping up with a few billion digital Jonses.

This can be the only possible explanation for the latest weirdness foisted on us by the internet, an app called "Manly – Photo Editor for Men".

The promotional videos how remarkably Manly can work magic on your tubby, spotty, balding, flabby body.

The three Ts

You can quickly and easily give yourself pecs, biceps, more muscles, tatts and beards from a vast library. You can make yourself taller, thinner, tanner. Smooth out your skin, change its tone.

Now, I have to admit I'm old-school in that I think if you want abs, lay off the pies and do some crunches.


And that has to be a basic flaw with the app and others like it. It is, I hate to point out, er, not actually what you look like!

While it may be amusing to fiddle with for five minutes it is also downright evil when you think about it.

Even better than the real thing

Firstly, it's built on a nasty premise – the real you is not good enough. Gee, thanks. Then it's also got some deceit and meaningless instant gratification piled on for good measure.

The user experience must be crushing. You finally get to see yourself as the delicious hunk of man meat you've always wanted to be.

"Wow, I look great!" you think. "This is how I want to look! It's an actual image of the me I'll never be, forever gnawing at my already bleeding self-esteem."

Manly's creator, Xuan Liu, says the app is for "self-entertainment or online showcasing."

Self-entertainment? Perhaps more like self-flagellation. And online? Again, what's the point, because this, as we have clearly established, is not how you actually look! If you score a Tinder date it will, 100 per cent, go to custard, given your very clear lack of the promised tatts, abs, beard, hair and height.

Fit the bill

We're assaulted by a deluge of messages, every day, about how a "real man" should talk, act and look. The strictly policed performance of being a man is deeply damaging and a significant proportion of our population is made up of angry young men who feel they'll never be "man enough."

Women's happiness and self-esteem has long been ravaged by objectification, the media and body image issues. Men have enough problems of our own without have to be actively told our true selves are not manly enough by an app.

Sure, it's only an app, but it's also another small blow among many relentlessly damaging young men and everyone around them.

Real manliness is as diverse as the human species. All human beings who are men are manly. To attempt to fit into one, narrow, unattainable version of manliness is pretty much impossible.

There's really nothing manly about the Manly app at all.

With more than 25 years in Australian media, Phil Barker has edited NW and Woman's Day magazines, and published such titles as Vogue, GQ, Delicious, InsideOut and Donna Hay. He is a consultant creative director and communications specialist, currently writing a book on "man stuff" for publisher Allen & Unwin. He is a regular commentator on the lives and style of Australian men.