We live in an age of sharing. Not the kind of sharing we learn in preschool though, where I give you something and you give it back; this kind of sharing really has nothing to do with conventional interpersonal communication. We live in an age of social sharing. This kind of sharing allows people all over the world to connect from the comfort of their couches. This kind of sharing allows you to find out what your old high school friends are up to without ever having to communicate with them. This kind of sharing has increasingly become more visually-based than text-based, especially with the popularity of Pinterest and Instagram. So how does all of this visual communication with no boundaries impact society and individuals?
It’s fairly common knowledge that the media negatively impacts many people’s self-esteem, giving them unrealistic expectations of beauty standards, whatever that means. You can check out some statistics about how the media impacts women here. Social media definitely plays into these self-confidence issues, but I am opening up on my Instagram point-of-view and social self.
The Truth Behind My Instagram Self
Anyone who peruses Instagram for a second knows all of the beautiful, seemingly perfect people who exist. Are you like me? Have you ever wondered, “why don’t I look like that?” and then feel badly about yourself?
I am a contradiction. I don’t like being photographed, yet I post pictures of myself everyday for anyone to see. Why do I do this if I have insecurities? By putting myself out there, imperfections and all, I hope to connect with and inspire others to accept who they are and not hide behind their self-doubt. When I look at my pictures, I see:
- my prominent chin and jawline: a doctor once called this a deformity
- my strangely uneven eyebrows that make my eyes look uneven
- the crease under my eyes
- how my closed-lip mouth looks mean, mad, or unnatural
- uneven or blemished skin (makeup and bright lighting wash this out)
- my little widow’s peak that makes for an uneven hairline
- my large nose (my dad once called it “classic Italian…” I can’t imagine that’s a good thing)
I used to struggle with the idea of posting pictures, like people would think that I think I look so good, and then snicker and point out my flaws. I also like to give people benefit of the doubt. I would never do that to someone, so I have to think other people are the same. By putting myself out there, I’m not saying I don’t have insecurities, but I’m saying I recognize that I have flaws, and THAT’S OKAY! I’m a human, are you? We all have them. Maybe by showing and connecting with real women who embrace their flaws, we can try to do our part in reversing the unrealistic standards of beauty.
Filters and Apps
When people are so gracious as to leave me kind comments on my Instagram pictures, I always feel compelled to say, “thank you, but the lighting really helps!” (Instead, you should follow my advice for accepting compliments.) Flaws aside, I definitely look ‘better’ on Instagram than in real life. In real life I’m not sitting on the top of my couch to catch the light coming in from the window and nearly toppling down as in the above picture.
Some people have asked me what filters or apps I use for my pictures, and I’m happy to share. Let me start with my progression though.
I was new to the Instagram game; it’s been around since 2010, but I didn’t even get a smartphone until 2015 and started dabbling in Instagram around August 2015. Apps and editing were all new to me, so I made the mistake of trying to play around with too many features and filters. I would blur under my eyes, get rid of any blemishes or imperfections, and use the airbrush feature to smooth out my complexion. Now when I see people’s pictures who use or overuse these, I cringe. I don’t like an over edited photo anymore. Instead, I like playing around with the lighting: brightness, highlights, and shadows.
Or, just let nature be your filter: the two shots below were shot outside. The first one in direct sunlight on a very bright day and the other at that beautiful golden hour before sunset.
Aviary: I use the free app Aviary where I can adjust these lighting settings. You may be surprised at what wonders lighting can do for you. No longer do you need to blur or airbrush your face – slightly brighter light will take care of imperfections without having to touch up or filter your face. If I’m using a filter in Aviary, I like the “Uptown” option in the Style grouping because it brightens up the picture.
Instagram: I also just adjust the lighting settings directly in Instagram. If you’re not using the Lux button, you’re missing out. The middle button, Lux, makes your picture more vibrant, bringing smaller details or shadows to life. Unless I’m doing black and white, I generally stay away from filters and focus on playing with the lighting. If I were to use a filter, it would be Clarendon or Lark.
Behind every picture is…
a lot of weird, unattractive pictures. I mean a lot. Okay, sometimes my Instagram husband “nails it” in two shots, but often when I’m taking my own, I could take 10-20 to get one where I don’t look mad, annoyed, drugged, 5 feet wide, etc.
Instagram as your brand
Wait a minute, you’re thinking, something isn’t adding up. If you’re so into showing your true self and bringing a new, realistic standard of self-image, why are you 1. altering your pictures and 2. why aren’t you posting more natural pictures of yourself? See, I knew what you were thinking, didn’t I?
I admire people who, like my sister, have perfect skin, no makeup or light alterations needed. I also admire people who have a beautiful full face of makeup, complete with subtle contouring, highlight, and lashes. I, however, am neither of these two people. I am the working mom who has the same 5-minute makeup look every day. While I love makeup and switch up my colors and styles, it’s always a basic variation of a quick, simple routine.
For bloggers, social media is more than a fun social platform, it’s a brand. If you’re not in the blogging world, it might be strange to think of Instagram as your brand, but social media truly is an influential factor in your success. Because I can think of Instagram as being part of my profession, I have to treat it as such.
When someone left a nasty comment about my looks on one of my articles, it got me thinking: Attack my intelligence, attack my writing, even attack my physique if you want to go there. Those are all things I can control. Social media has made itself a platform to praise and admire the “beautiful people” and possibly judge or criticize the unattractive, all behind the safety of your keyboard.
Here’s the thing though, and not to go all God on you, but in my religion, we believe God constructed you to be exactly you. He picked all of your features precisely to create your unique self. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can believe in the science of a baby’s development. Nobody chooses to look a certain way. People you deem pretty didn’t “do anything” to be pretty. People you deem unattractive didn’t “do anything” either. We’re all people. We’re just, you know, born. I believe we’re all more alike than different, but often our exteriors keeps us from seeing that. Who wants to break down these walls with me?
So these are some of the truths behind my “Instagram self.” What are some of your truths? Do you think social media is a negative influence on one’s confidence?