Print perfection has been a hot topic for a major part of my life. We see it everywhere. Photos are retouched: double chins erased, cellulite smoothed, dark circles lightened, waists trimmed and thigh gaps increased. Consider it like digital spa treatments and imagined circuit training. These are unrealistic ideals that we cannot attain. How am I supposed to measure up to that? I’m a 34 year old with the metabolism of a hibernating bear. In addition, I have a three year old who is looking for the party at 1 am. I’m practically made up of cellulite and dark circles.
As a result of all of the people like me, who realize that being perfectly airbrushed is overrated, when a company like Aerie launched its #aeriereal campaign in 2014, featuring models in their underwear with no retouching, it was received with resounding applause. The company showed a 20% increase in sales in 2015 and 32% in the first quarter of this year. I mean, come on, it’s 2016. Can we just be real?
While perfection in print still exists, and still poses a problem with the way we view ourselves, I have other fish to fry.
Today, in addition to print perfection, we are constantly bombarded with perfection on Social Media that comes from our friends, acquaintances and people we follow. I’ve seen people take 10 selfies in order to get the best one. (Confession: I limit myself to 3). We need to use the perfect filter. Get the perfect light. Have a witty caption.
Then wait for likes. No one is perfect, so why is it necessary to always have perfect posts?
Speaking of likes, when I was at the hairdresser recently I read a story in a magazine titled “Why Your Likes Don’t Actually Mean Anything.” In the article, the author speaks to Essena O’Neil, an 18 year old Instagram model who had more than half a million followers. She decided to delete thousands of photos and started to talk about “being addicted to social media, and social approval.” She expressed that she will no longer let her number of likes define her. “It suffocated me,” she said.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, PhD, professor of psychology at University of Massachuetts at Amherst says, “You get an emotional high when your posts hit a responsive chord with your audience, so you keep going after it, and you’re never fulfilled because you always want more likes.”
“Since we spend more time online, where we don’t get positive reinforcements from facial gestures, hugs, and other nonverbal cues, we try to get it from likes,” says Lary Rosen, PhD, professor of psychology at California State University at Dominguez Hills.
Because of our obsession with likes and the negative effect it has on our lives there is an app, called Facebook Demetricator, that removes like tallies from Facebook. Once you have installed it your Facebook post will change from “20 people liked this” to just “people liked this.” I can’t believe that this is where we have come but hey, the world is ever evolving.
In all of this, who do I feel for the most? Teenagers…If you are reading this and you are over 30, imagine having to go through your day with teenage angst and adolescent moods and have to worry about filters, captions and likes. As a teenager, I was only worried about people liking me, not my posts. It’s important for them to know that likes do not equal validation. A lack of likes doesn’t make you a loser.
Everywhere we turn we are confronted with images that, in one way or another, make us feel like we are not good enough. How about we change
not good enough to imperfectly perfect. We all have good in us and we all have something to offer. I intend to focus on that. Join me!