Do you ever get tired of seeing yet another food blogger writing about how healthy she eats while posting pretty pictures of herself? I do.
There's an unspoken message that if you eat this way, you will be just as pretty as me.
It's like watching a commercial. If you eat Yoplait Light, you will be just as happy as the woman skipping around on the TV. Likewise, if you eat paleo, you will get a muscular body. If you eat gluten-free, you will glow. If you eat vegan, you'll lose body fat. If you eat coconut oil, you will turn into a skinny white woman.
I jest...obviously. But you see what I mean, right?
When we watch TV and movies or look at magazines, we're intellectually aware that the images are edited to look ideal. But emotionally, we're just as susceptible to those perfected images as someone who has no clue that they aren't exactly real. But what about when those images don't come from companies but rather from ourselves?
We live in a very strange era, the era of Reality TV and Facebook. We all love to connect via social media, and it has become a great way for us to meet more people, hear news, and spread our messages. But underneath all of that, I believe the real reason Facebook has become such a success is because it allows us all to get a glimpse of the glamour of being a star.
We soak up the lives of famous people, and despite knowing they are not happier than we, part of us yearns to know what it feels like to be in that spotlight. And so, with Facebook, you can. Through Facebook, we each get our own reality TV show. On my page, I am the star. I get to filter whatever messages I want and hide the ones I prefer my viewers not to see. I get to post only photos of myself where I look exquisite, especially the ones I've edited to look all artsy. Then I get lots of likes and comments, which makes me feel like I'm Anne Hathaway without all the haters. I get all the adoration of a star without the intense scrutiny. Or at least, no one leaves any mean comments, although I would venture to say we all silently judge what we see on Facebook.
If you want to take your fame a step farther, you can become a blogger. Through having a blog, you can build your own brand. You can become a star with followers, and if you become big enough, you even get the trolls. The haters who come in and leave you mean comments or write mean things about you in forums. That's when you're truly famous like the Hollywood stars.
I'm 30. That means there was no internet when I was little. I told that to a boy I was babysitting and he told me that was crazy. I told another girl I was babysitting that I was born before 2000, and she asked if there were horses and buggies in the olden days. Do you know what that means? There is a whole generation of kids growing up who have never known life without the internet. They have never known life without Facebook, and they have never known life without idealized images of what we should look like.
I remember when people looked semi-normal on TV and in the movies. I was watching Crocodile Dundee recently and I was shocked to see the scene where the actress is wearing a bathing suit and you can actually see cellulite! Now, if you've seen Crocodile Dundee, you know that Linda Kozlowski, the main actress, is a gorgeous woman and in that scene, Mick Dundee is watching very appreciatively. But if that movie were made today, her cellulite would be edited out. It's unnecessary because she looked hot. But that's just how things are now. Reality is only okay when the actual reality is edited away.
With Facebook and blogs, we are the producers, directors and editors. These are our own reality TV stations. This is where we create what the world sees. Every day, we watch media that makes us feel inadequate. Our stretch marks, wrinkles, curves and bumps don't exist in media land, and so the fact that we have them makes us feel like there's something wrong with us. So what do we do?
We edit ourselves for our own reality shows.
We only post photos on Facebook where we like how we look. Or we do our own photo shoots, edit the photos, then post them. We put the pretty photos on our blogs.
We participate in the media brainwashing of men, women, and children, and we do it without meaning to.
The businesses that make money off of us know exactly what they're doing. They photoshop women so we'll feel unattractive in comparison and then buy their products to look better. More and more, they're doing the same to men.
But what about us?
When I delete the photos in my camera that show that I have a tummy or look like I have a double chin; when I instead post the photos that make me look oh-so-pretty, I am doing it for one reason and one reason only. So that no one knows that I am real. So that I can feel, just for a moment, that I am as beautiful as the women I watch on TV. So that I can present the same facade that they do.
But does it serve you? Does it serve my readers who are working hard to become healthier? When we see bloggers in their 20s posting pictures of themselves in bikinis next to their food photos, does that help the 18 year old college freshman who's struggling with an eating disorder? Does it help the 15 year old girl who's trying desperately to have a six-pack when that is not what her body wants? The same goes for men too. We talk a lot about women and the media, but men have their own pressures, and eating disorders are rising in boys and men faster than is ever acknowledged.
What I want to say is that maybe we should take the editing down a notch. There are some bloggers who put it all out there: the good, the bad and the
Do I want to be a part of the media that makes us all feel inadequate? Do I want to inadvertently advertise a reality that is only part of the picture?
Sometimes, I look like this:
And sometimes I look like this:
And I can play around with iPhoto to make myself look like this:
These photos were all taken by my boyfriend on the same day, in different lighting, at different angles. When I look at those photos, I see the first one, and think, "Ugh, I look awful. I need to lose weight." When I look at the second one, I think, "Yay, I'm so beautiful. Go me!" When I look at the third one, I think, "I could be a Hollywood star too."
Same me. Different perception of myself.
Here's what I think my boyfriend sees when he looks at the first photo: That's the woman I love and she's smiling. I'm happy when she's happy.
The second photo: That's the woman I love and she looks a little unhappy. I hope I didn't do something wrong.
The third: Uh. It's artsy, I guess.
I was the same person in all of those photos, equally worthy, equally smart, equally valuable, yet by only posting the ones where I fit an image of what is beautiful, I am contributing to a media brainwashing that I don't support or want to be a part of.
The best way, I'm realizing, that I can take a stand against this is to take a stand for myself. Yes, I can choose not to buy from companies that promote an idealized, distorted image of beauty. But more than that, I can choose not to promote that myself.
It's easier for my ego to only post certain photos. And I have a big ego. It doesn't want me to put up any pictures that might make me feel vulnerable.
But I'm going to. For you. For the kids growing up now. For myself. Because it's time I realized that I am equally valuable when I look like this:
And when I look like this:
And right now, as I take this photo from my couch where I'm sitting in my pajamas writing.
As a blogger, as a woman, and as a human being, it might make my ego happier to present a facade of perfection. But I'm not here to feed my ego; I'm here to feed my soul.
And my soul says: