If you, like me, spend a significant part of your time online reading blogs and scrolling on Instagram, you may have noticed a wee shift going on lately…
A little shift that has raised all kinds of questions surrounding reality and the way we present ourselves online.
My view? Well, I guess it goes against the grain. A little bit.
Since the beginning of time we’ve been editing photos. Scrap that – we’ve been editing ‘situations’ since the beginning of time.
Think about it.
You’re in Covent Garden. It’s a few weeks before Christmas. You want to take a nice photo with the huge Christmas tree clearly in the foreground of the shot BUT people and pigeons have got other ideas.
You want to create the illusion or at least, tell a certain kind of story, about that Christmas tree and that London setting.
You want the tree to be the protagonist, not the photobombing pigeon (pigeons get far too much air time on my blog, I swear).
So you wait. You freeze your fingers off, for a little aperture in time where fewer people are walking across your shot and fewer pigeons are pecking the cobbles for the crusts of a fallen Bratwurst.
And at last, there’s no fluorescent jackets or rubbish trucks in sight – boom. You take the shot. You add a filter and you whack it up online.
Instagram started as an image sharing platform and while I do understand that some influencers have taken the orchestrated photo to the extreme (and this can be detrimental to the young and impressionable), I don’t find it shocking that images, outfits, skin, or even the whites of a dog’s eyes, are edited these days.
Be it by adding a filter, or adjusting the lighting, changing the saturation or just waiting for a pigeon to pass through and making Covent Garden seem quiet.
I don’t heavily edit my photos and that’s a personal choice. But it’s also my choice to recognise the photos that are heavily edited and take them for what they are: stories.
Subbed, proofed, edited – stories. They’re versions of a series of events.
The sooner we all come round to that idea, the sooner we can stop feeling so depleted by what we’re engaging with online.
The onus is on us – the viewer, the scroller – to interpret these images and these stories as an upgraded model of real life. The iPhone X to the Nokia 3310, if you will.
You know what real skin looks like, right? You know it’s not perfectly smooth, golden and pore less. You have to know that.
You know that those room service shots taken from a hotel bed somewhere in Paris are an hour-long creative process – because we all know no one in their right mind would writhe around with a flakey patisserie item.
Nah uh honey, not in a robe.
Flakes and fannies should never mix – it’s like my number one life rule.
It’s all a glistening version of reality, packaged for an aesthetic grid, to look good. That’s it.
You have to know that.
And if you don’t, if you aren’t perhaps in a place where you can apply common sense to your social media and recognise the real from the revised, then hit the unfollow button.
Beth Sandland spoke about this in a blog post recently and I totally agree with her – we have to be in control of our own feeds.
The content we see and consume is a choice, it’s not a covenant we signed our names against before checking the small print and realising we’ve ordered six sofas from DFS instead of one.
It’s your space. If seeing something there is detrimental to you and your life, then cull it. Tackle it. Get rid of that white noise. Don’t call them out on Twitter. Don’t indulge in the ‘hate’ follow. Just do what you’ve got to do and move on.
My Instagram is full of aspirational types: the perfect bodies, the nice cars, the fancy holidays. But equally, it’s full of the ugly, food stained pjs and ‘oops, I just ate a bit of my face mask accidentally on purpose’ kinda types.
They all give me something different. But if I ever found myself feeling inferior because of those feeds then it’s down to me to do something about it. Right?
I can’t get them to stop editing their waist and I can’t get them to pose in a way that shows me that their skin folds over their jeans and looks a tiny bit like a blob fish, just as mine does. But what I can do is have the wisdom to know what’s what.
Apply common sense as you do in real life to the online world and you should be able to navigate social media in a healthier way and see past the augmented BS.
I mean, of course. I get it. Not everyone can see real life vs social media quite so black and white as that. And for a whole multitude of reasons and life sh*t we have to go through, we aren’t always able and even willing to apply logic to what we’re seeing.
And before we know it one irrational thought monopolises into a whole screenplay of psycho b*tch narrative and BAM! That hormonal furnace is well and truly lit and not even in a good L-I-T, kinda way.
At times like that I’d say – close those tabs down, don’t allow what you’re seeing on social media to exploit your insecurities like that. In real life you’d walk away, so what’s so different about this?
Stop giving your energy away so freely to something that simply isn’t making you feel happy nor worthy.
But in the same breath, there’s little good to come from calling people out and criticising them publicly for what they’re sharing on their social media – it’s their feed, remember. That rule works both ways.
I read a quote in a book about photography recently and it articulates everything I wanted to say in this post.
Every photograph is a manipulation of the truth […] To a greater or lesser extent, we all manipulate the truth when taking pictures.
And when you break it down like that, we’re all sweet little liars in one way or another.
From reviewing a photo before our pals share it online (girl code number one) to forcing our relatives to look aggressively happy for a group shot, or finding a clean wall to shoot against when 98% of them are covered in cider and p*ss, we’re all guilty of manipulating the truth somehow whether we like it or not.
The ugly stuff doesn’t always make it into our stories – on Instagram and in real life – and that’s ok, we don’t have to share it and we don’t have to be offended if it’s omitted from the plot.
We shouldn’t need to see the ugly stuff to know it’s out there but maybe that’s just me? I love relatable posts – the kind of posts that make me laugh out loud because they speak to me and my truth but more often than not it’s the caption and the words that give me that, not the image.
We can all make a cake look nice but when the context is missing – as it often is in a photo – we’re left to fill in the gaps and determine whether it tasted nice, too. And that, in layman’s terms, is all social media really is: selective context.
So, what story do you want to tell? And more importantly what kind of stories do you want to read about?
If it doesn’t feel good – you know what to do. You can usually tell right from the blurb.
Love you bye.