As everyone who knows me or who has worked with me as a client will know by now, I am not the biggest fan of social media. I don’t hate it, I know that it works for many people and for many businesses, and keeps people in touch around the world.
Is it for me? No. Is it for you? It might be, and that’s great. It's also good to stop and remind yourself just how much of it isn’t real, and how comparing yourself to what you see can actually be detrimental to your mental health.
I'm in a unique position. I speak to many different people every week from all walks of life and hear their struggles and their insecurities. Many believe that its only them that is going through failures and setbacks in life, and that everyone else is doing just fine. In fact, if I had a pound for every person who told me they are the only person they know who hasn’t got their shit together (house, job, relationship, kids etc), I would probably be typing this on a much fancier laptop.
Announcement culture has a lot to answer for.
I’m about to show my age, but when I was in my 20s, social media wasn't that big and it was universally accepted by all my friends that nope, no one knew what the hell they were doing, no one had any money, and no one had a real plan. If you did, you needed to be captured and studied for scientific purposes.
Now I’m in my 30s and social media has since exploded in a huge way. Go on Facebook (do people still use that??) or Instagram, and people’s feeds are full of baby announcements, engagements, new jobs, houses, travel plans (ok maybe not so much since our good friend Covid outstayed its welcome) and more. Of course you will see that and assume everyone is 'ahead' of you and are doing really well. Even if you don't consciously compare yourself, you will do it without even realising. I wonder how many people actually come away from looking at social media feeling content and happy.
When I was younger, there was a huge uproar about models in magazines being airbrushed. I remember a time when people campaigned for change, in a bid to stop teenagers having an unrealistic view of how they should look, and to try and help prevent eating disorders and low self esteem. It clearly didn't work. So many clients tell me how bad they feel when they look at others online, that I realised it's only got worse and worse.
I decided to do some investigating. The easiest way I could think of to compare lots of different women my age who are trying to look and sound their best, was to go on the lovely and wholesome dating app Tinder. I created a fake male account and started swiping. (At no time did I swipe right, talk to or catfish anyone. That’s just not cool). I can’t lie, what I first saw did immediately touch a nerve. Pages and pages of stunning profiles. Perfect makeup, perfectly toned bodies, bios stating how each woman loved to laugh, travel, see friends, work hard at the job they love, whilst relaxing at the house they own or spending time with a plethora of equally stunning friends. (Everyone paddleboards these days too apparently).
Mostly though, I couldn’t understand the makeup. I’m not a big makeup person so I started thinking I must be doing something very wrong. How do people get their makeup looking so perfect and flawless? How did nearly every other woman my age have such perfect skin and be so expertly put together? I quickly went online to google makeup. But before spending a fortune on stuff I hadn't used before, I then downloaded an app to see what I would look like if I did use it.
Here is when my revelation happened. I knew snapchat filters were a thing, but call me stupid and naïve, I had no idea that using filters to completely alter your face was a thing. The way I looked when I used a makeup filter on my photos, was exactly how many of the women on Tinder looked. I went back and looked at them again. It was suddenly so obvious who was using a filter. It was A LOT.
So, for your amusement, here is how easy it is to take a normal photo and make it social media ready with just a few clicks of a button.
I really liked these photos of myself before I changed them. Now they look pretty dull next to the shiny new ones!
I can completely understand why it's so tempting to use filters. You can change your face, the size and style of your facial features, your hair length, colour and style, and even your accessories and expressions.
If you had one chance to impress others on an app like Tinder, using filters to make you look the best version of yourself would make sense. Especially if competing with lots of others or when suffering from low self worth. However until (in pure Black Mirror style) someone invents real life filters, as soon as you met in real life the façade would be over.
I've never used filters before this and I won't be spending money on loads of new makeup that I would actually hate wearing.
It's fine for people to use filters, but it's also not fine if it makes others believe its real, and feel bad about themselves when they inevitably cant achieve the same look in real life.
Here are my final two photos to compare. The first one is how so many of us live our lives. We consider ourselves in a race against each other. We forget to focus on ourselves and our own journey, and care more about what's happening in other lanes. The second photo is the way I try to live my own life. I'm in my own lane, I'm not looking at other people or racing anyone else. I don't spend time looking online to see what others are achieving and how they are looking. All that matters is doing what I want to do and being who I want to be.
I'm not here to preach or tell you not to have social media. If you enjoy it, use it! Just remember that people don't tend to make posts when they are feeling low, when they've been dumped, or when they didn't get an interview for their dream job. They also don't tend to post unflattering photos of themselves first thing in the morning. Until they do, don't believe everything you see!