Dang! (yes, we say that in Kentucky), Amanda looked really amazing! Her complexion flawless with no tell-tale signs of aging that one would expect for a woman who is younger than me, but approaching 50. Her teeth sparkled like a Colgate commercial. Her thighs were as smooth as a Baywatch babe and her stomach was almost flat. Those were the thoughts that bounced around in my somewhat sleepy, fairly distracted brain as I scrolled through posts on Facebook.
I made a mental note to ask her about her skin care regime and to try pay attention to the exercises she was doing at the gym since they were clearly producing results. I suppose I could have asked her in the comments under the picture, but that seemed a little too out there. I scrolled through the comments that others had posted and noticed other friends had spotted her youthful appearance and beautiful skin. Comments exclaimed things like, “you look amazing!” or “Beautiful!!!” There were also double digit numbers of likes and loves tied to the photo.
I scrolled back up to the picture for another look. Dang! Her husband, Ben looked incredibly good too.
Ben is a very large man. I couldn’t help but notice that he looked different than the last time I saw him. I double clicked on the picture to get a better look at my friend and her hubby. That was when it hit me, they looked too good. No sign of little wrinkles at the corners of their eyes. There was barely any sign of a smile line on Amanda and her husband didn’t have any smile line at all. That was probably what made me realize that she had used Photoshop or some other app and worked on the picture before she posted it. Their complexions were smooth and flawless. Ben’s double chin had disappeared and their bodies had been nipped and tucked without cosmetic surgery.
I couldn’t help myself and opened up her page to investigate more photos. There was a photo of Amanda taken either at the gym or as she heading there based on the clothes she was wearing and her hair being pulled back with a matching headband. In that picture she appeared at least 20 pounds smaller than when I saw her in person earlier in the week. Her tummy was much closer to flat, her waistline more defined and her biceps and thighs were firm and dimple free.
I couldn’t help but wonder how much time was spent getting the pictures just the way she wanted them. Were others fooled like I was at first glance? Who else noticed and decided to either go ahead and post compliments and be kind enough not to mention that they could tell the photo was altered? I decided, that for me, no response was the best route.
I took a closer look at other friends pictures that had recently been posted. Amanda was not the only one who had apps and skill in “photo-cosmetic surgery”. I would guess between 5 and 10 percent of the pictures had been altered and that may be a low estimate since I have numerous friends on social media that I do not see in person on a regular basis. I pondered why this was such a popular trend.
“What’s the harm?, Who is being hurt? asked my inner voice. After a little further contemplation I wondered how Ben felt about having his appearance altered. Maybe he was ok with it, maybe he asked to be photo-shopped. For all I knew, he might be the one versed in photo altering skills.
Next, I wondered what Amanda and Ben’s teen-aged son and elementary-aged daughter thought about it. They were also in the picture that I first noticed and they had been tagged making it reasonable to believe they had seen the picture. Did Jake laugh about his Father’s missing chins or did he perhaps quietly go to the mirror to inspect his own face for any sign of flaws. Did the fact that his blemishes had been erased make him happy or more self-conscious about the 2-3 pimples that normally appeared on his forehead? If Tara’s picture had been altered I couldn’t tell. Did that boost her confidence or did it make her a little worried that her real appearance would soon not be good enough on it’s own.
Ten years ago women worried that their daughters would have low self-esteem because they compared themselves to the models in magazines and on television who had been airbrushed and touched up to look like the makeup and fashion industry’s version of perfect. Now we see that standard of unrealistic appearance spreading across social media and going beyond celebrities and to the people we actually see and know. Does the typical female see herself as average or beautiful? Take a peek at this video-taped experiment conducted by Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7DdM-4siaQw
When did we decide that we were no longer pretty enough, skinny enough and aging well enough to let others see us as we really are? Will we continue the trend to the point that we avoid being seen in public because we don’t want anyone to see what we really look like.
Do you remember the movie Face Off that starred Nicholas Cage and John Travolta? I have to wonder if there won’t be a business in the near future where a person can design the face they want and have a mask made that that could be worn almost the whole time.
Perhaps, we will we soon reach the point that we remove our masks as we climb into bed and place them on the nightstand the way I do my glasses?
I even wonder if this obsession has caused some to go out in public less because they fear they can’t live up to the image of their own pictures. If it does, then businesses like Amazon, drive-through windows, food delivery and ordering our groceries online have to love it. No, I don’t think this is at the level of conspiracy theory, but we know that social media and other technology advances have prompted us to be less face-to-face social. We no longer have to leave our homes for things that used to take us out in public. I am not sure this a good thing (as I sit in front of my computer wearing my fuzzy robe and slippers and haven’t even brushed my teeth yet after waking up).
I try to take good care of my skin and I go to the gym and run but I have wrinkles and some extra pounds. Maybe I am just too lazy to spend time altering the photos I post on social media, but it’s more than that, I want to be authentic and if I see a friend at the grocery store I want them to recognize me and not have thoughts about how I seem to have aged 10 years and gained ten pounds since they saw me on Instagram last week.
On the flip-side, I still use make-up (most days) and have my hair-dresser cover my grey every five weeks. I am just not ready to alter my pictures, it somehow feels like cheating. But that is just me, to each his or her own.
Perhaps that’s why I only update my profile pictures about every year and half and post more dog pictures than selfies. I can’t take a holier than thou stance either; I reluctantly admit that I posted a pic of my pooch one time and used a red filter to bring out the highlights in her coat. Is that bad? I hugged my beloved dog and asked her if she minded that I had enhanced her picture. She gave me a lick and a look that seemed to say, “Whatever, just give me a cookie”.
While the ideas in this post are based on my real experiences, Amanda, Ben, Jake and Tara are fictional. I may be getting old enough to start to turn off my filter but I am not crazy enough to call out friends in my blog!
Thanks to lidya-nada-63831-6, fernand-de-canne-532399, brandon-anderson-10552 on unsplash for the use of their photos.