With thousands of editing apps, a gazillion filters, and the ability to carefully choose which photos to post, how do we know what’s real anymore? I mean, if a photo of a gorgeous girl with perfectly smooth skin and teeth as white as snow is laid out in front of you, then that’s real, right? It’s right in front of your very own eyes. You can see it. So of course it’s real….right? Right???
In actuality, that’s not the case.
But that’s the way it seems. You could preach to me for hours about how Taylor Swift’s photo on the cover of Cosmo has undergone hours of editing, but honestly, it’ll go in one ear and out the other. And that’s how it is for so many girls in this new, digital age. Because if it’s sitting in front of you before your very own eyes, then it’s real and it’s something to aspire to be. Especially in today’s society.
Ten years ago digital makeovers were only for the stars and starlets in movies and magazines. Now? Now it’s everywhere. You pick up your phone, log onto instagram, and BAM. I guarantee you can’t go 10 seconds without seeing a photo that has been altered in some way. And now we’re not just talking about cute filters and teeth whitening. No, now you can do it all. Bored of your complexion? Wiith the click of a button you can make yourself a different race. Tired of your boring, blue eyes? Not a problem. In less than 60 seconds you can trade them in for a set of hazel ones. Hair color. Makeup. Facial blemishes. You name it; you can change it.
But the real problem, at least to me, is the latest trend: changing your body. Up until a few months ago, I didn’t even know this could be done.
One night I went out with a few of my friends, and as most girls do, we took a bunch of pictures. Immediately we all began downloading them into our picture-editing apps of choice. At the time, all that meant for me was slapping on a cute filter or two. We uploaded our photos and then carried on with our night.
The next morning, as I was looking at the picture one of my friends uploaded (let’s call her Jessica), something seemed…off. I couldn’t really put my finger on it, but after studying the original for a good 5 minutes, I realized what it was: in the picture Jessica uploaded, about 20 pounds had magically melted away from her body. Her waist was tinier, her arms slimmer, and for good measure, her butt more plump. I could not believe what I was seeing. My first question was, how? My second, why?
With a smile and joking tone of voice, I confronted Jessica and asked what in the world she did to the picture. I honestly wasn’t judging; I was simply curious. Immediately she showed me this photo-editing app (I forget the exact one, but trust me, there are hundreds) that can literally transform your figure. Melt away pounds of fat. Insert curves where you want them and remove them from where you don’t. In a nutshell, apps like this can create a brand new body. One that doesn’t exist; that maybe you just weren’t meant to have.
I never asked Jessica why she did it because (a) that’s kind of an awkward question to ask and (b) the answer is kind of obvious: she wanted to appear thinner. But personally, I would never mess with any editing tools too much because I don’t want people to see me in person after looking at my photos and say, “What happened?” I mean is it just me or would that be totally awkward?
I remember in 9th grade I used to use a picture-editing website called Picnik. Now, kids, this was way before Instagram so these photos were solely uploaded to the now prehistoric Facebook. (Although I still use Facebook to upload pictures from college and what not.) ANYWAY…I was introduced to my 2 favorite tools: a self-tanner effect and a blemish-remover/skin-smoother. At the time I was pale (before I was introduced to tan towels…lols) and had a bunch of freckles covering my uneven face (now I use a little thing called sunblock). But in my Facebook pictures you’d never know it, thanks to my handy-dandy photo-editor.
It was all fun and games, but really it just created a false image of myself, as well as insecurities. Whenever one of my friends would tell me some random boy thought I was pretty from stalking my Facebook, my excitement was soon interrupted by a wave of insecurity because I knew the truth: the girl in the photos wasn’t exactly me. Would he still think I was pretty with my fair complexion and not-so-smooth skin? In my mind, probably not. (And that’s why I don’t go crazy with photo-editing apps now. Yes, I could easily smooth out my skin completely and change a million little things, but then that wouldn’t be me.)
As an experiment, I downloaded the free photo editing app, Visage Lab. This app requires absolutely no time, effort, or skills. All you do is download your chosen image and voila! you have yourself an instantly better-looking human. However, looking at the before and after pics is actually disturbing.
And then I run it through Visage Lab, allow the app to do its magic, and BAM. I have myself a completely transformed
Honestly, I didn’t even realize my face was shiny or think my teeth weren’t white enough until I saw the corrections the app made. It’s like we don’t even think that certain flaws are flaws until society tells us – screams at us — that they are. How sick is that?
And then it all goes beyond the editing apps. It’s what people don’t see, rather than what they do.
If you scroll through my Instagram, I can honestly say that you won’t see any photos that aren’t me. However, you also won’t see the pictures that didn’t make the cut. The ones where I’m smiling weird or there’s bad lighting or I just look like a mole rat.
I’ll gladly post this selfie with a full face of makeup and curled hair…
….but would die if someone posted this one to my Instagram:
And I’ll happily upload this picture from a fun night out…
…but because of my shiny face and animal-like smile (lol), this one won’t be going anywhere:
And these 2 selfies will gladly find their way to Facebook…
…while these will not:
I mean there is a piece of freaking corn in my mouth in that last photo. (I guess I was eating and forgot to swallow it all…#oops.)
We see ourselves when we groggily first wake up in the morning. We see ourselves when we have a 102-degree fever and a really bad cold. We see ourselves with unbrushed hair. We see ourselves with uncleaned skin. Baggy pajamas bottoms. Oversized T-shirts. We see it all.
But we don’t see that for anyone else.
No, we see everyone else’s best and our worst and then we make the most fatal mistake one could possibly make: we compare the two. It’s like comparing a leprechaun to the Queen of Shiva. It just. doesn’t. make. sense.
In today’s world, confidence certainly doesn’t come naturally. And how could it? How could it possibly come naturally when we don’t even know what beauty is. We don’t even know what real is.