Reality VS Perceived Reality
It’s Friday night, you’ve finished work and after wiping off your makeup, showering and washing your hair, you leave it damp in a messy bun and put on your favourite t-shirt (the one with a hole in the armpit). Then you sit in your undies on the couch watching Netflix and eating a ham and cheese toastie because this is just what self loving looks like sometimes.
It’s Saturday night, you’re hosting six people for dinner. You’ve bought the eighteen ingredients you need to prep a delicious gourmet meal, and while dinner is cooking you vacuum, mop and wipe down every surface you can find. Everything is put neatly in its place. You put out some candles and your fanciest plates and cutlery and then you do your hair, makeup and put on that super cute, effortlessly casual dress you bought last week. Everything is perfect and at the end of the night when your friends thank you for going to so much trouble and tell you how delicious dinner was you laugh and tell them it was no effort at all.
We all have our reality behind the scenes, like nights at home, makeup free, in daggy clothes, eating a basic AF dinner and then we have the reality that we present to the world, our “best” selves, how we’d like everyone to see and imagine our lives.
This reality versus perceived reality is very similar to how Instagram operates.
Many Instagram influencers use expensive, high quality camera equipment or hire professional photographers and videographers, to get hundreds of shots that they can then select the best from and photoshop the images to perfection before posting.
That fitness model who trains in her coordinated activewear, perfectly slick glossy ponytail and flawless makeup? It’s likely that she already did her workout earlier that day, sans makeup, sweaty and red faced, and you’re actually looking at a photoshopped image from a photo shoot.
If you think that the posts you see, or even the stories you see are posted in real time, you’d be wrong. Many content creators “batch create” content; they dedicate a few days each week to being photographed in multiple outfits at various locations or spend hours cooking several different meals at once to photograph and then gradually post those images over the following week or two.
That woman that posts beautiful shots of perfectly curated smoothie bowls, has probably spent an hour cutting up fruit, putting that bowl together perfectly and photographing it from various angles, all while eating her real breakfast of vegemite toast, and she is going to visually enhance the image before posted it as her breakfast tomorrow.
These accounts only show you the highlights reel of their real lives because not many people want to see the Friday night ham and cheese toastie; you can’t sell people on the reality that they are already living. So instead, they try to get you to buy into the illusion of the gourmet dinner from Saturday night.
The problem is, this has created the expectation for everything we do to now be “insta-worthy” before we post it. We manipulate images of ourselves to make them more flattering, we even choose our meals based on how pretty they’ll look in our Stories.
We feel the need more than ever to be documenting everything we do, ALL. THE. TIME. and filter the crap out of it before we post it online. Instagram has, at mass, created a social standard that is impossible to meet, and yet we are still trying to meet it, and then devaluing ourselves when we can’t.
Earlier this year, as part of a project called “Selfie Harm”, British photographer John Rankin Waddell, took portraits of 15 teenagers and then had them edit the images to make them more “social media friendly”. The amount that the images were manipulated is shocking when they are viewed side by side and even though most of the teenagers admitted that they preferred the original images, they felt that they would not be “liked” by people unless they were enhanced.
So what can we do to stop this from impacting the way we see and value ourselves?
Instagram itself is not actually the problem, it is simply a tool that started off with innocent intentions but in the wrong hands, is causing more harm than good, and unfortunately what other people post is not within our control.
The only thing within our control is what we post ourselves and the content we allow ourselves to interact with. So what we can do, is Marie Kondo the shit out of our social media and unfollow any accounts that do not spark joy. If an account you follow has a negative impact on how you feel about yourself, or if it does not add value to your life, it’s time to go.