So, I know you won’t believe this when I tell you but I am absolutely speechless. Yes, it’s one of the very few times in my life that I simply don’t know what to say and I’m trying right now to sort out my thoughts and figure this whole thing out. (Ma and O…don’t get too excited, I’m sure my normal speaking ability will be back very soon…probably by the time you read this).
Anyhoot, I’ve been reading articles concerning the image we have of ourselves and come to find out that because we (women mostly, but men as well) use filters so often on our selfies before posting them to social media, our brains get ‘used’ to seeing that more perfect version of ourselves and we then judge ourselves much more harshly when we see our unedited selves in the mirror. You know, this really just makes sense though, doesn’t it? When I see my son, I don’t necessarily see the ‘man’ in front of me…I see the boy he’s been throughout his life and his face is a composite of all of those images. I see what I’ve been ‘used’ to seeing throughout the years.
Think about it, we take a selfie…determine that we need to fix it since it looks too real…and then post the ‘perfected’ image online. Later, we wash up, look in the mirror, and think blech. Then, we start to get down about ourselves since we’re so far from the perfect version everyone is clicking the like button for. So, next time we make sure to filter just as well if not a tad bit more, because those likes just feel so damn good to us, even though it’s creating yet a more unattainable image of our own face that in reality, there’s no way we can match. Then we want to feel better and get some validation so snap, filter, post, and get the love. The cycle becomes a vicious one and we are now seeing tons of research showing that it’s a dangerous one as well.
Take a look-see at this (Forbes, March 23rd, 2020):
“In 2018, researchers discovered 55% of surgeons are now seen by patients looking to improve their appearance for selfies (up from 42% in 2015) and that the pervasive nature of filtered images regularly trigger body dysmorphia.”
Paul Nassif (Hollywood plastic surgeon on Botched said this: “Public thinking has changed. More people are embracing fillers and botox to recreate the effect of filters and other photo editing apps. It’s becoming very normal.”
Now read that again, grasshoppers. People are wanting plastic surgery to LOOK BETTER FOR SELFIES POSTED ON SOCIAL MEDIA. Selfies! Are you kidding me? Social media is becoming so strong of an influence in our lives that we’ll go under the knife or needle to look good on our feed? A FEED ON A SCREEN THAT’S SUPPOSED TO BE FILLED WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY WHO LOVE YOU? (Get ready ma…) but are you fucking kidding me?
No, it’s not a joke. First, let me admit to you that of course I’ve used filters! When they first came out they were a God send…right? My zits (yes, I’m 50+ years old and still have zits 🙄) and wrinkles could be hidden and I had the face I have always dreamed about. Clear, smooth skin and looking like I had had a glamour make-over from the 90’s (but better…no big hair and denim jackets with bandanas). I loved it! I would feel so good about myself when others would say “Wow…looking good, Kristi!” Until I’d take a shower, look in the mirror right after, and think ‘why in the hell can’t I look more like the pics I take?’ I’ll tell you why…because I was posting the perfect me…not the real me. And some of them were REALLY bad perfects! Like when the filter looked super on my face, but then every other part of me looked ‘real’ and things didn’t match up, but I liked seeing my skin flawless to the point I had no pores and was ready for a mag cover.
Filtered me and ma…REAL me and ma.
Did you know that millennials will take about 25,700 selfies in their life and that 1:5 kids want to grow up to be social media influencers (thank God they have a great career in mind as opposed to being a doctor or educator 🙄)? And think about the selfies…what if that millennial put a dollar in the bank for every selfie? That’s a nice little nest egg to build up. P.S. Did you know that in 2015, more people died taking selfies than from shark attacks? And, since 2011, there have been 259 deaths which are now called ‘selfiecides’? (Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care) SELFIECIDES, grasshoppers…people putting them in positions where they are risking their life for a picture of themselves. I can’t find the right words for this…so…(dammit, sorry ma again) what the fuck? Are we that freaking narcissistic it’s worth our lives to get “the” shot that garners so much attention?
There’s also a new ‘disorder’, if you will, being called “Snapchat Dysmorphia” which is filtered pics causing negative effects on a person’s self-esteem and body image. Then this can literally trigger the much more serious Body Dysmorphic Disorder…an actual mental illness that the The Mayo Clinic describes as this: the BDD person INTENSELY focuses on how they look and their body image…checking themselves in the mirror repeatedly, constantly grooming themselves for hours everyday and then seeking reassurance, all of which is causing significant distress and an inability to function in everyday life. The perceived flaw(s) (remember…they are perceived and not real…what they see in the mirror or in selfies isn’t the reality of the image there). Sometimes it’s a certain body part the person intensely and obsessively focuses on, like their nose or lips, and others might have a more general issue with their body.
OK…let’s get this straight: a ‘disorder’ that originates from SOCIAL MEDIA SELFIES and can literally trigger a mental illness which can lead the person to get multiple plastic surgeries, avoid crowds and gatherings because they feel so ugly, and spend so much time obsessing over their flaw that their relationships and work suffer. This is bad, peeps.
When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s (best decade ever!), we didn’t have social media (and gasp…actually survived!). The ads I saw might have had some ‘airbrushing’ but they weren’t photoshopped and still looked ‘normal’…some wrinkles, freckles, pores (!), etc. But in 1990, photoshop started being used on the pics we see, and it’s become the norm in ads and pics of celebrities…some estimates say 99.9% of celebs use it for pics they release. So…the people we look up too for body image, beauty, styles, fashion, trends, etc. aren’t who they appear to be. But by golly, we want to look like them.
You know, once I started reading about all of this I decided I had enough problems (😳) and was tired of looking in the mirror and saying ‘blech’. I’ve worked so hard to get strong after my breakdown and have come a long way. Three years ago this summer (actually beginning around this time), I was incapable of functioning, tried to end my life, and began seriously cutting. Now I’m on a mood stabilizer, running, doing yoga (and now have ‘guns’! Hello, tank tops!), living alone and fixing up my house all by myself (including walking around on my roof!), learning new hobbies, doing art, and really starting to see my worth and feel STRONG. Why would I want to back-pedal and feel bad about myself again because of the expectations I have of how I should look?
So, when I had a pic of myself I wanted to post (which actually is a bit upsetting to think I feel the need for others to periodically see my face…you’ve seen it once, you don’t need to see it again to know who I am for piss sakes 😳) I decided to not use filters ever again. No more. I’ve posted the real me. Yes, I have wrinkles because I’m 53. I have sun spots because I’ve always been a tomboy and outside a lot. I have zits and clogged pores (although the oil cleansing method is a god-send), and the list of flaws goes on (I sound like a real catch, huh?). But here’s the thing, grasshoppers: what I see in my pic is what I see in the mirror and it’s become much more normal for me now. It’s me. I feel so much better about the real me than I previously had, and putting it out there freed me from that weight of perfection. I no longer wear make-up except for mascara (thanks for the droopy eyelids, ma) and lipstick. Nothing on my skin…which has actually made it look better in the long run. I used to never go out without gunk on my skin. Now I do, all the time, and I feel like I’m just being me.
Peeps, we need to let the girls and women in our lives (and men too!) that they don’t need filters to look good. They don’t need to erase, plump, blur, straighten, make thinner, make bigger, lighten, darken, or anything else to be beautiful. They need to learn that being themselves is enough. Instead of saying how gorgeous they are in their photoshopped pics, we need to tell them how great the editing is, but how they are beautiful already.
But I know this isn’t going to help much though. There is too much social media influence in our culture for the younger generations, and they are going through the majority of their growing up years seeing only ‘perfect’ pics (even of their parents) and building the cognitive framework in their mind that flawless is the only option. How do we knock this down when it’s so well constructed in their minds? Why are people spending their lives as “influencers” simply showing off their edited looks to sell a product by telling others how it will make them look beautiful too? Is this really an admirable ‘career’? Why are we wasting time everyday to take and then edit the perfect pic? The one we are hoping is ‘it’ on FB or Instagram? Couldn’t that time be better spent…like playing with our kids, reading a book, volunteering, taking a hike, etc.?
I guess I just worry for these kids and teens right now since I see so many of these concerns in my own college students. It breaks my heart how these issues are affecting their self-esteem and body image in a way that could potentially trigger BDD or cause anxiety, social phobia, depression, etc. Is a selfie worth this? Is pretending? Grasshoppers…I don’t believe it is.