Wanting to portray the most attractive version of ourselves isn’t anything new. I’ve been doing it since the 90s, and I’m sure there are decades of predecessors prior who had the same agenda. But in a world where we are ever discovering new ways to enhance a snapshot of our lives, where do we cross the line between wanting to post a good picture, and losing ourselves in the process?
We’re a society that is obsessed with what we look like. We’re addicted to changing our appearance, we can’t help ourselves. We’re so used to this being the norm, we’ve forgotten what it’s actually like just to post a picture of us, no frills, no dog ears, no nothing. But is that anything new? Haven’t we been trying to ‘look our best’ in photographs for years? This doesn’t have to mean any hardcore photoshopping work has gone on (no black market edits) but just the general perception, that we want to look good. The only thing I see that’s changed, is the tools at our disposal.
I’m by no means a saint, I layer on VSCO filters like sunscreen, loving that slightly arty twang it brings to even the most mundane of photos. It doesn’t change what’s in my pictures which is always 100% a-grade Ricketts meat. But does that make them less authentic if they’re glazed with a winning combination of filters? If that’s the case, then where does the boundary lie?
There’s a number of people that I follow who preach an ‘unfiltered’ snapshot of their lives, but then intertwined in the agreeably authentic pictures, are professional shots from their seemingly fab famous lives. These are natural photographs too, but they are also professional ones. Ones that have been adjusted to enhance the lighting, not to mention the fact they’re shot on a high definition camera. That doesn’t mean they’re airbrushed or fake, but it does mean they paint a nice, natural picture of them - emphasis on nice.
The line for me is drawn when we’re obsessed with changing what we actually look like, to a degree that distorts or attempts to hide our natural self. Trying to hide our lumps, bumps, wrinkles and spots as if they’re something to be ashamed of. Those little hints and hues that make us human, that show us for what we really are - unique. Although the filters most of us use are natural enhancements of our daily lives (dog ears included) and albeit completely harmless, they are still enhancements, edits of the real thing.
Never mind the filters, the pressure to pose, ace the angles and so on is quite frankly exhausting. Yet take number 1,000,023 of you ‘casually drinking coffee with book’ can still look casual AF when it pops up in your feed. Kylie Jenner for one has been quoted saying she takes around 500 pics just to get one scorcher of a selfie - yep, 500. That’s a serious chunk of time to dedicate to perfecting a selfie, let alone the iPhone storage capacity.
Excuse the pun, but it’s easy to see how the lines get so easily blurred. Our feeds are littered with images that do look natural, beautiful and unedited, but the reality is they might not be. What we post on Instagram is our highlights reel, the good bits. Young people in particular are bombarded with this incredible pressure on a daily basis, so you can see how one filter leads to another and before you know it you’ve nipped in that waistline and added curves like Kim K. They’re the tools at our disposal, that ‘perfect’ picture is now just one app download away.
What I’m saying is, It’s easy to see how Instagram filters can be viewed as a gateway drug to an obsession with manifesting a perfect digital version of ourselves. They perpetuate the cycle in our minds that we need to distort what we look like in order to entertain others or ‘fit in’. We feel this immense pressure to be prettier, slimmer, curvier, cooler and we see filters as a way to slightly enhance our seemingly ‘basic’ lives. I would advocate that we need to be mindful of the boundary, ensuring we don’t get obsessed with over enhancement. Yes, dog ears are harmless, but using an app to remove blemishes is not what life’s about. Live and upload in the moment, if that moment happens to require you looking like a koala, then that’s cool. Don’t feel pressured to upload what you think people want to see, upload what you want, and be proud of it. Focus on growing your self confidence, more than your followers.