So, an article came up in a newsfeed the other day and I can honestly say I was more gobsmacked than I’ve ever been in my entire life on this earth (around 40 years or so… 🙄).
First of all, I want to assure you I have not, and will not, ever ever ever be a part of TikTok. I don’t really get the premise outside of people dancing and singing and making videos to share, and the only person I know who actually uses it watches young girls shake their boobs and behiners (he’s my age). I’m sorry…call me crazy (many have 🙄), but I think this is a bit creepy…to say the least.
Anyhoot, there’s something called ‘trauma porn’ and it’s where people either ‘pretend’ to be victims of something or they use their own story in a sensationalized way for attention.
I knew this existed (because I’m just so gosh darn smart) but when I saw this picture, I was speechless.
So in this case, we have these young women pretending to be holocaust victims. Peeps…please read that sentence again. These women are pretending to be concentration camp victims and my question is who, in the name of all that is holy, would ever…in a million years…think it’s OK to appropriate this tragedy and use it as a way to get viewers on fucking TikTok? Seriously? I’m speechless (which is quite unnatural for me to be 😳.
As I often do, I’m typing this outside on my laptop (while Eddie and Dottie frolic around…eating poop…and yapping at absolutely nothing) and my beautiful neighbor came out with her dog. She asked what I was doing and when I told her about this trend and that I was trying to write about it, here’s what she said: “You know, people my generation have never really faced trauma or tragedy anywhere close to the holocaust and how can they even imagine what it would have been like? How could they ever presume to know that pain? They’ve been shielded from so much anyway.”
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.
“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.
So, I read an excellent post yesterday on the blog Pointless Overthinking called “Is Social Media Toxic – Being Mindful” which really got me to thinking about my own use of Facebook: my fave social media platform. And here’s what I discovered: I’ve been a total hypocrite at times. Here I am yacking to my peeps about how important it is to be genuine and authentic, yet I’m not necessarily doing that on FB. What the hell?
I don’t ‘use’ Instagram because to be honest, typing in all of those hashtags is simply a chore, and Snapchat just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me (yes son, roll your eyes and call me a digital immigrant even though I gave birth to you after 16 excrutiating hours of back labor without a grandbaby in sight to make up for it 🙄). I get where you send pics and videos that you’ve jazzed up with cool editing, but they ‘disappear’ (not all together true…you can take screenshots and as such, naughty pics can be actually be saved and shared) in 10 seconds which seems like a heck of a lot of work for that incredibly short period of time. And yes, I know all about tiktok and whatsapp as well, but have never tried them. 🤓
Anyhoot, that’s why I’m focusing on FB (that’s short for Facebook son, try to keep up) to illustrate my own hypocrisy. See, I’m not being completely genuine on FB. After all of my orating about opening up, being honest, being yourself, I realized I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. Yesterday, I downloaded all of my FB pics so I could make sure I have them myself for all posterity. As I was scrolling through them, I started laughing at my use of editing tools and how absolutely horrible some of them looked. I started out with my grunge phase where every pic looked like it was run through an incinerator, and then using frames that just were ridiculous. The biggest thing I noticed though was my use of filters so I would look as perfect as I possibly could in the pics I posted of myself.
After looking at these pics, I started wondering about my posts. So, I clicked on a bunch of them that went along with the pics, and saw I was filtering those as well. There are a few of R (Hubby 3 🙄) and I where I’m smiling broadly with him, when actually the day was pretty rotten. But like I think others do, I was just wanting to show everyone how ‘happy’ we were no matter what. I saw so many from my time with J…some on an outing just a day after getting back together following the first month he cheated on me. I guess I wanted to prove to myself and his ‘ex’ how we were meant to be; but all I can see now is a confused look in my eyes and a resigned expression on his face. I have some upbeat pics during the time of my mental breakdown…I wanted people to think old Professor K was fine like always, even though I had attempted suicide just days before. I think you get what I’m saying.
Why did I do that? Why did I think I had to pretend my life was going great all of the time? Well…because it seemed like everyone else’s life was. You see, I was still pretending my way through life and wanted to make sure everyone saw the best me. The ‘perfect’ me if you will. The me that would get a lot of likes because hey, that’s the whole point. Right? I needed that outside validation because I knew on the inside, I wasn’t accepting myself. I didn’t want too. I had worn the mask of ‘normality’ for so fucking long, I didn’t want to take it off in front of a keyboard either. In fact, that was one of the the last places where I wanted to show my true self. As long as I looked right in real life and also online, the longer I could convince myself it was true.
I see my eyes in these pictures so well now and notice the desperation in them. Wanting so bad to believe I was ‘normal’ and not face what my true self might be. I think we all do that to a degree…put what we wish was true or want our ‘friends’ to believe is true, despite the actual circumstances. When you think about it, you can’t be authentic in real life and not on social media…that’s an oxymoron for sure.
And when I put ‘friends’ in quotes (yes peeps, I know I’m not using “quotation marks” but apostrophes are easier for me to find on my keyboard 🙄) I do that for a reason. C’mon now…how many friends do you actually have? Hundreds? Really? You know hundreds of people so well that you could call them right now, from another phone because you have the number memorized (like friends usually do), tell them you’re in trouble and need them to bring a hundred bucks to you now, and they’ll drop anything they’re doing to come to your rescue. Because isn’t that a true friend? Someone who will be there for you not matter what? Someone that you know so well you could talk all about their likes, history, relationships, etc.? Nope.
It’s almost like a contest to see who can have the most friends on FB…when in actuality, I would guess the vast majority are acquaintances and maybe not even that. I have over 1000 friends on FB (many of them students who I adore keeping up with) but in reality, I only have a couple of friends I can really talk with in my non-social media life. Literally two. Hmmmmm…I’m so often lonely, but have 1000 friends. Something just doesn’t sound right to me.
I also noticed I checked in a lot while out and about. Am I so narcissistic to think people give a flying rat’s ass where I ate dinner last night? That I’m in a new store? That I took a trip? Am I that important? So influential that the check-in will promote the business? For fuck sakes, no (sorry ma, but you know I drop the f-bomb just for you).
After the breakdown when I had to face the mental illness I battled all of my life, I started talking about it in dribs and drabs. I needed too for a couple of reasons. First, my masks didn’t just fall off during that time, they were stomped on as well. Second, I started allowing myself to be more genuine. More ‘me’. I was so fucking exhausted from acting all of the time, and didn’t have the energy to continue. And third? I was done being ashamed of who I was. Someone that’s always been different…always had a tough time making friends and fitting in…someone who is way way way too sensitive…someone who doesn’t always laugh and smile, but cries too. In other words, someone who is human, doing the best she can with the cards she’s been dealt.
So, once I was healed enough after the breakdown to be able to get back on FB, I discussed why I’d been absent. I was honest, more so than ever before, about having had the breakdown, what I had been dealing with, who I really was. Later, I did a Tedx Talk where I addressed being mentally ill for the first time in another very public forum. I think I did these things to make sure I had people around me who would not only understanding who I was, but hold me accountable for being real. Not fake. Then I started this blog just a couple of months ago to further yap about my bipolar life in a no holds barred way.
My point (after all of this rambling)? I need to make sure I’m consistently real on social media too. Last February, as I was spending my first Valentine’s day alone in decades (I hate this holiday…hello…be loving to your partner everyday), I scrolled through FB and read posts like “My husband just brought home 3 dozen red roses, booked us a cruise (not a good idea then, but who knew?), and bought me yet another diamond ring.” Okey dokey. I was sitting at home in my old jammies with the hole in the arm pit, Biore strips on my blackhead infested nose, eating Reeses Pieces while bawling, and watching a Lifetime movie to make me feel better by seeing some boob being stalked by a deranged contractor. Great holiday. 😳
Unfortunately, I know a lot of ‘friends’ of mine on FB who are pretending their way through life via social media. They’re like I was: hoping that if they write it…put it out there…it’ll be true. I’m here to tell you grasshoppers, it’s not.
So now, when I’m having a shitty day and need some support I post “I’m having a shitty day and need some support.” It feels so freaking good! And this week, I uploaded a profile pic with no filter…there I am, wrinkles and all. But it’s me. Not a better, more attractive me. But me. And shouldn’t that be enough?
My new resolution (in writing so that I’ll have to honor it) is this: no more lying on FB, ever. If I’m sick and having diarrhea and feel a compulsive need to post, well, there you go. And no more filters (😱)…no more pretending. If I do any of these things, it means I’m not accepting myself for who I am or the life I’m actually living; and if I can’t do that, how in the hell can I expect others too? I’ve been working on this very thing for a couple of years now, and am understanding that there’s no shame in being who I am, which in my case is a thrice (never used that word before) divorced, mentally ill, 3 on a scale of 1-10 in looks, wrinkly, mom-bod (but no mom jeans…ever), imperfect woman. But now, I’m not wasting energy trying to think of posts that will make others envious. Pics that show me so freaking filtered I look 12. Lies about my life I have to remember so when I talk about my weekend to colleagues, I can keep my stories straight. I’m done with that.
And you know what? It’s actually quite liberating. 🙂