I Facetune nearly every single one of my Instagram photos. If you don't know what Facetune is-- I'm about to change, or maybe ruin, your life. It's essentially photoshop for Instagram and I learned about it from the Kardashians. You can clear up bad skin, brighten your eyes, make your waist skinnier, your lips bigger. By the time I'm done, I look like the most Barbie version of myself and I'm ready for the world to accept me as a living breathing human woman.
However, the most demoralizing moment of my life was when someone asked for my handle so they could add me on Instagram. They entered my name into their phone and then, a skeptical, confused look....
"No," they said. "This isn't the right person."
A human, sitting DIRECTLY next to me, did not associate me with my own photos because I had altered them so much. I was literally unrecognizable. Social media me, and real life me had collided, and it turned out the fantasy did not live up to the reality.
In 2015, Essena O’Neill, an Australian Instagrammer with nearly half a million followers, made news when she changed all the captions on her perfectly curated Instagram photos to ones that accurately portrayed her reality. That beautiful bikini shot on an Australian beach? Well actually, she'd been starving herself for months, had hardly eaten the day of the photo, and that was her 100th take. Also- that was a sponsored post, and a sexualization of her then 16 year old body.
She changed all the captions on her posts, went viral, did a bunch of interviews, and promptly deleted all her accounts.
What happens when social media gets real?
I operate in a social media sphere. I once tweeted about loving ice cream, and then an ice cream company sent me free products. They literally shipped me 30 different flavors, packed in dry ice, next day delivery, to my apartment. Just because I mentioned their name! I felt cool and powerful. Like I was utilizing The Secret. If I just say things, will they show up at my house? I posted a video of it on my Instagram and it got hundreds of likes and comments. People encouraged me to create a video series of me taste testing the ice cream. "Wow!" I remember thinking. "There are strangers on this earth who would literally devote time out of their day to watching me eat ice cream." The world is a fascinating place. Or maybe it's a fetish.
In reality, that very same week, I had to ask my dad for money because I couldn't pay my rent. I hadn't freelanced enough that month, I'd gone shopping too much, and despite being rich in likes I was very very poor in actual money.
Cool online does not equal cool in real life, it turns out.
I know very popular influencers with millions of followers who live in very small studio apartments in dingy neighborhoods of Los Angeles. They airbnb their couches for extra cash. I have a best friend who posts romantic photos of she and her boyfriend with adorable captions; I know they're in the process of breaking up, and he just told her he wants to be in an open relationship.
Remember when we were all trying to figure out what lip product Kylie Jenner was using? Yeah, those just turned out to be injections.
What I'm trying to say is this: social media isn't real. It doesn't portray our realest self; it's our ideal self. It's the picture of that latte with the foam art you took before you sent it back for being made with whole milk instead of skim. It's that great pic you take with your girlfriends on a girl's night out-- but you spend most the night taking photos, uploading them, checking for likes and comments, and hardly any time actually hanging out.
Social media is great at portraying a good time without actually being one. So next time you lust after the life of that Instagrammer, or that perfect family, or that beautiful girl in the makeup tutorial, remember: they have all the same problems as you do.
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