Can you remember the first time you edited a photo of your face? I’m pretty sure that for me it was about 10 years ago, back in a simpler time when I spent approximately 23.5 hours a day writing passive aggressive bulletins and pressing F5 on MySpace.
I saw other people’s semi-professional-looking selfies and I took notes (not literally. WELL SOMETIMES). I knew that my own attempts were lacking, that my mum’s digital camera (which I regularly borrowed and forgot to delete the pouts from) was on its last legs. I knew that I would never become a minor social media celebrity with what I was currently offering – I needed to act.
But I wasn’t sure what I needed to do. There were a few girls I knew who swore by Photoshop but I wasn’t rich or brave enough to take the plunge, and one poor soul got bullied for accidentally leaving ‘brush strokes’ on her pictures – she was known in my circle of online friends for being a shoddy Adobe representative and, above all, A LIAR. I worried that making the brush stroke mistake would be something I’d do too, so I stuck to upping the contrast on Microsoft Word (example below). It was free and it turned out alright approximately one time out of 10, so I decided it would have to do.
Look at me, ragin’ against the machine. I’M SO MAD. SICK OF THE SHEEP. WON’T DO WHAT U TELL ME. etc. *kicks bin*
I loved this photo so much. One of my friends painted it as part of a GCSE project and I was obscenely proud – afterwards I sent it to my grandparents like LOOK A PAINTING OF YOUR FAVOURITE GRANDCHILD, ME.
I thought they’d be excited but they didn’t really respond. When I asked them why they weren’t champing at the bit TO HAVE MY FREAKING PORTRAIT FRAMED, they said “Well… the painting and the photo… they… they don’t really look like you.”
They were right, of course. This photo looks more like Tony Soprano than it does me. I have a lot more freckles and I wake up with a new spot on my chin every day for no apparent reason and my nose has a bony thing on the bridge which I would 100% consider rectifying if I wasn’t saving for a house and terrified of plastic surgery/my mum’s reaction. There’s a small resemblance – and obviously I’ve changed in the 10 years since I took this, anyway – but most people would agree that this is a very edited and forgiving image.
A lot of the photos I’ve taken of myself since then are also very edited and forgiving. Snapchat has allowed me to create a Sophie with golden butterflies around her head and a Herculean jaw structure. The dog face (MEH MEH MEH BASIC STFU) hides my wonky nose and makes my freckles look cuter than normal. I’m not even ashamed to admit it: I adore a good vanity filter.
But every once in a while, using Snapchat – and Instagram, and anything else where the finished product doesn’t look like my tagged photos on Facebook – makes me feel a bit terrible. Like I am fraudulent AF, if you will. Occasionally a friend will vent publicly online: “OMGG STOP WITH THE FILTERS, WE ALL KNOW YOU DON’T REALLY HAVE SKIN LIKE THAT!” Then someone else will tweet: “Weird how u didn’t look that good when I saw u down Aldi last week.” (MIAOW! ZING! A+ CONTENT!) I’m 99.9% sure it’s not directed at me (unless I am being SPIED ON during my weekly shop) but it still makes me paranoid. Another time, someone will say “Your photos last week looked Nothing Like You, hahahaha!” and I will have to Hahahahaha in return instead of bursting into tears and then saying “No, no, I’m fine, I’ve just got some stuff going on at home.”
The filter-despisers seem to believe that our filter-faces are fake. That we are trying to sell a gloriously removed-from-reality image of ourselves to our friends and social media mutuals and convince EVERYONE EVA that we are thin-faced and naturally poreless. But I don’t get it, because nobody who sees us with an array of stars on our head and a pink hue surrounding our cheekbones g e n u i n e l y believes we look exactly like that. Nobody has met me in person or seen me at work the next day and said “Oh. Well. This is disappointing, because I was under the impression that you would show up with a flower crown attached to your head and an airbrushed finish. Damn.”
And you know what, Aldi stalker? IF YOU’RE GONNA GET PICKY, where do we draw the line? Is your make-up okay, or is that lying, too? Is brushing my hair a no-go because it takes my locks out of their normal, matted state and makes ’em look all shiny and sleek? Can we wear padded bras, or are they off-limits?
Maybe you like Snapchat because you enjoy making yourself throw up rainbows and resembling an old man when the mood takes you. Other people are big on the deer or the squirrel that looks like a hippy (NB: No-one is a fan of the toast or that bloody CHERRY they were trying to flog us a few weeks ago). I myself like it for the dog and all his face-altering friends – and if that’s less ‘me’ than changing my entire head into a purple cupcake, then so be it.