"What if there was a filter for life, like you just walked around looking like your Instagram pics?" I Tweeted a few months ago. I remember feeling pretty proud of that particular Tweet; clever, right?! (Okay, maybe it wasn't that creative. An active Twitter user can dream, though.)
But a responding Tweet I received immediately wiped away any trace of smug. "I would be pretty for once," a friend replied, who is entirely stunning, I might add, and most especially when she's not wearing makeup.
Her disheartening response struck a clandestine chord in me, one that had been hiding deep within my organs -- and I didn't want to acknowledge it. But, alas, with that Tweet came an important realization: Quite simply, Generation Y feels that we are all more attractive when we are filtered.
Including me. I'm not one who's in support of incessant selfies, but here and there (usually when my hair makes the decision to lie fabulous), I'll snap one. And then, guess what? I'll put a filter on it. One that makes my strands extra shiny, and my lashes extra thick and my eyes extra green. And I'll feel prettier.
Not once did I feel I was faking it until my Twitter conversation. I mean, everybody edits pictures, right? Just look at any cover of Cosmo, Glamour Marie Claire. These glamorous celebrity cover girls -- with their sparkling smiles, twinkling eyes and unspeakably smooth skin -- are not 100 percent real. We'd all like to imagine that the editors aren't sitting in a studio in the Condé Nast or Hearst building on a fancy computer, touching and retouching all of the photos. We'd like to think they're better than that, because real women shouldn't have to think that they, too, need to be retouched, but the truth is: We know those pictures aren't totally real. Not even close. Nobody, not even famous people, look that glossy in real life.
Remember the days when we'd take pictures on our disposable cameras (this was, like, seventh grade for me -- don't laugh), get the photos developed and that was that? I mean, there was no such thing as a "filter." The pictures just were.
I miss that kind of simplicity. I'm not going to say that social media was our demise (I myself enjoy Facebook too much to make such a brazen statement), but I do think that with the rise of these sites came the sudden commanding impulse to look awesome in photos. After all, we want our 500-plus friends to think we're beautiful. This isn't solely directed toward women; I see men posting filtered photos, too.
Maybe I'm thinking too hard. Maybe some of us are just filtering our pictures because it gives them a neat effect. But I have a hunch that the majority are filtering to gain pretty points from our acquaintances, peers, friends, family.
Is it a bad thing? Not necessarily. But while all of the "likes" and "You're so gorgeous!" comments from those around us may boost our esteem, I think it's sort of a provisional form of uplift. Because like my friend on Twitter, all of us are actually more attractive in real life. "Hey, you look nice today!" holds far greater bearing than a typed compliment regarding a digitally enhanced photo. While I don't think it's realistic to pose that we collectively abandon the use of filters, I know I'm going to work on telling people how pretty they are when I see them actually standing in front of me. I hope you do, too.