I’ve only been on Snapchat for about a year. I joined, initially, to amuse my kids while we were in a waiting room passing the time. It was a successful distraction- for them and for me- because I discovered something that maybe wasn’t so positive: the make-me-pretty filter.
You know the one I mean: the one that gives us a flawless complexion and just seems to brighten us up a bit. I began taking all of my selfies with that filter, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it makes every picture better. If, by better, I mean that it removes flaws and strives for perfection. No, it can’t fix my hair if it’s messed up, and it doesn’t give me perfectly applied makeup. But it does take the reality of me and punch it up into something that is, well, fake.
We have a society that vocally champions the body positive movement, self-love, and other advancements toward embracing self-esteem, natural hair, and even a bare face. On the other hand, that same society is airbrushing already gorgeous models on magazine covers, and every social media post seems to be put through the make-me-pretty filter. We’re saying that we advocate self-acceptance, but then in order to accept ourselves, we have to add a filter.
We’ve become experts at the camera angle (angled down is more flattering) and making ourselves appear at our best advantage in photographs. While I understand the vanity, I also understand the deep insecurities underlying these strategies and the constant posturing toward making ourselves seem flawless. The reality is that no one is flawless, but in a society where everyone else seems a little too perfect, our flaws stand out in sharp relief. We’re achingly aware of every one of them, even if others don’t seem to care.
As a deeply personal example, I’ll share that I am 36, and I’ve been in braces for a year. For that first year, I only had on the top, clear braces. Now the bottom metal braces have been added. I feel like a walking, talking Snapchat filter- and not one of the cute ones. I feel like a goofy filter got stuck, only this is my smile right now. Yet, no one else seems bothered by it. My own idea of what I should look like and my own insecurities about how I look right now have turned my pictures into closed-mouth smiles in an effort to clear away my worry about my appearance.
Where’s the self-love and self-acceptance in that? Even body positive champions seem to use those tricky camera angles to make themselves seem thinner or taller or whatever it is they find more acceptable than their reality. While some people will publicly #embracethesquish and go make up free, many of us are still trying to hide our real selves.
If we’re going to advocate self-love and self-acceptance, it needs to be real. Not just by adding our voices but by also adding our actions. If we champion natural hair and makeup free skin, we should post those photos of ourselves. Believe me when I say that it’s rare for me to post my naturally curly hair with a bare face, although it does occasionally happen at the beach. If we say that we advocate for a body positive perspective, then stretch marks and other perceived “imperfections” should be proudly displayed as much as any other body type.
We’ve put filters on all aspects of our lives and then wonder why we struggle to deeply connect to others. Perhaps when we’ve gone filter-free, at least some of the time, and shown our lives and ourselves as we actually are and not as we’d like them to be, we’ll find that others feel free to be exactly who they are, too.
Maybe Snapchat isn’t the problem at all. Maybe our problem is that we say a lot about how accepting we should all be of ourselves, but the reality is still being put through a filter. It’s time to get real.