Skewed sense of self in the snapchat generation – bit of a mouthful, isn’t it? But you know what else is a bit of a mouthful? Always saying “omg no, haha, put a filter on my face”. Do you know how I know this? Because I’ve said it every single day for the past 4-5 years of my life. Every. Single. Day. I have told myself, before anyone else could, that my face in its natural state is not enough. I’ve told myself that my nose is too big, my cheeks too plump, my eyes too small, but most importantly, that my face will only look better when it’s not my face. But get this, it was always justified with “not too much though, it’s not like I’m changing my entire face” or better yet, “it’s just a filter, everyone knows what a filter does”.
The thing is, I never realised just how affected I was by snapchat and its filters until I left the app. But it’s been a trip since. I couldn’t remember the last time before I left the app that I’d taken a picture without a filter and in turn, didn’t really know what my face looked like. Which, if you think about it, is absolutely mad. During my most formative years where I claimed I’ve come leaps and bounds, I didn’t even know what my face looked like at its core. Scratch that. I didn’t like what my face looked like.
Though at the time I didn’t know this, the more I look it up now, the more my thoughts seem to have mirrored those with body dysmorphic disorder. It is defined like this:
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), or body dysmorphia, is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance. These flaws are often unnoticeable to others.NHS (2017), Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
Huh. Well. That’s something, isn’t it? It is absolutely insane to think that these apps which didn’t exist a few years ago are now the very same ones which are skewing our perceptions of reality. They’re blurring the lines between the fantasy world and the physical one, and the problem is this – we can’t even tell it’s happening. Well, I mean, we do know it’s happening, we just like to convince ourselves it’s not. And that is something we need to work on.
We need to learn how to place healthy boundaries between ourselves and our usage of social media – especially when it comes to images of ourselves. With the constant need for aesthetic perfection, we do not need to extend this expectation from our curated feeds to our bodies. Here are some ways I try and keep myself in check, especially when I’m starting to see my self esteem falter:
- Filter who and what I follow across the board –
By actively unfollowing beauty/fashion bloggers, I’ve been able to make sure I’m only seeing things that bring me peace of mind or inspire me to lead a version of life that requires my most authentic self. It also means I’ve placed a larger onus on repairing my spiritual and emotional health and thus ensures that I’m not isolating a healthy mind from a healthy body, but rather allowing them to go hand in hand.
- Practice compassion for others (and myself) –
Often we let ourselves be consumed by the idea that we are simply behind a screen and the words we say in jest are just that – jest. But the truth is, we are all humans behind the avatars that we present and the words that we say/read have a big impact on the inner voice we cultivate. And so, when I see something nice, or someone who is striving to live their most authentic lives, I take a moment to comment a few kind words because hey, let’s not forget, a few kind words go a long way.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to take as drastic a step as myself and completely get rid of snapchat because let’s be real, filters exist everywhere. But, what I am saying is this – don’t let the virtual likes dictate what you like (or dislike) about yourself. You are so much more than the chiselled jaw line, the high cheek bones, the bright eyes, and the blemish-free skin. You are the sum of all that is good, bad, and downright ugly. You are everything and anything that you want to be.
I leave you now with an excerpt from a confessional series I worked on a few years back:
I know that you were raised to look down upon the melanin in your skin, the fullness of your lips, the thickness of your thighs, and anything un-European. But I need you to know that in this world, and within ourselves, there is both light and dark, and neither is better than the other. Tucked between the folds oF your skin, you carry the stars, and I swear to God, I will spend my entire life in their finding if that is what it takes.Confession XXIX, A Journey Through Love.