Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by someone who cares TOO DAMN MUCH about social media. It’s everywhere – which filters you should use (you really should use the same one for every photo to achieve the most perfect feed), how often you should post (twice a week is pushing it – twice a day? Social suicide), and just how many likes is enough to warrant not deleting your pic???
Just a few weeks ago, I was watching TV with my younger sisters who have just entered middle school when all of a sudden one of them let out a classic middle school girl shriek. When I asked her what was wrong, she turned her phone to show me a girl who had only received 14 likes in 2 hours. Welcome to the 2015 version of passing gel pen notes about each other, I guess…
This is so messed up. And it’s our fault. Circulating the internet the past couple days is the story of Essena O’Neill, an Australian teenager who has gone to the extremes of starving herself to get the perfect Instagram post. Her message “Social Media Is Not Real Life” is so important, and needs to be heard by all of us. While I do not personally know of anyone who has starved themselves specifically for these photos, I have heard several cases of people using apps and editing to make themselves look starved – all for social media. I dove into this world today out of dumfounded curiosity. One google search, one FREE app download, and 15 minutes later, here’s what I came up with:
While these images may not be so shocking that you would immediately think *that is not natural*, that’s actually just my point. If I posted the right hand version of any one of these photos, I’m sure I would receive positive feedback and not one suspicious comment about my cinched waistline, enhanced breasts, whitened teeth, and line-less face. THIS IS THE PROBLEM! This stuff has become so normal, so expected almost, that it flies right under our radar. Girls are doing this to feel better about themselves, and the only way they will feel better about themselves is validation from others. None of these changes do anything to show the amazing personalities that are concealed behind self-conscious desire for positive feedback in the form of a “like”. And all of this only took me a few minutes, I can’t imagine what I could come up with in the time that some people put into these things. Ugh, so gross.
When I originally read and re-posted Essena’s story, my friend Michael commented on the irony that the publication that told her story was none other than Cosmo magazine. He had such a good point, and I hadn’t even realized it. This magazine is one of, if not THE most degrading publications to women. Masked behind their diet tips and style guides are the (barely) underlying messages that girls need to look, dress, and behave in a certain way. While it is extremely hypocritical for them to post something of this nature, at least it is a start. This problem has gotten so gigantic, that I don’t even know where to begin on how we can fix it. All I know is it will take each one of us individually to at least recognize the issue, and vow not to fall into the trap. Post pictures because you like them – not because the contents of the picture fall within a perfect square and your favorite filter will make it a good addition to your feed. Post pictures of memories you want to keep, not edited, doctored images that you happened to think of at a time that will yield maximum likes. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the middle school girls who are learning from the standards that WE have managed to fuck up.
P.S. – Never trust a selfie again
P.S.S. – Ladies, don’t you dare ask me what app I used…I won’t tell you!